Initiation for a new girl means trouble when it all goes wrong
Jenn was staggering along the gravel path and the rain was pouring. Water was getting into her shoes and her socks were soaked. Although she had brought a rain coat it was no protection at all and water was trickling down her neck and soaking through her shoulders into the light summer dress she had put on because she had been afraid her normal gym slip would get in the way of the awkward climbing she had to do. And her bra and even her cotton pants were beginning to feel damp. And her hair was unbelievably wet, for she had not brought a hat, thinking it was one more thing to carry and, anyway, a school hat would pick you out a mile off.
Besides there was certain pleasure, if you were going to flout school rules, in not wearing a blazer or her ridiculous straw hat, or any of the rest of it. But if she did get caught it would be a bit like a soldier being caught out of uniform. Needless to say, she would not be shot, but it would probably add a couple of strokes to the caning she was very likely to be receiving at some point in the next twenty-four hours; and despite having endured the cane at least half a dozen times in her short life, either at home or at school, she had never got used to the sting of it and the thought of it still frightened her.
And the bag was uncomfortably tight on her neck. At least she thought its contents would not be damaged by the rain, or at least she hoped not. She did not actually feel very much guilt, but a certain sense of responsibility as the temporary custodian.
At least the chances of being seen in this pouring rain were very low, but the thought of climbing up the wet drain pipe she had descended was not one that she relished.
She wondered as she rushed along, not for the first time, if she should have accepted this dare, which apparently had been given to every girl who entered the Sixth Form late, and concluded yet again that an unofficial bare bottom spanking from the head girl in front of the prefects, which had been the alternative, was too humiliating to be born.
No, there was a certain daring and adventure in what she had done and she felt thoroughly exhilarated, though a small voice of caution kept saying: “And what if you get caught? You’ve only just got to this school. You could be in real trouble. You should not have let them talk you in to this.”
However, her exhilaration at bringing off this exploit pushed that out of her mind.
She reached the school buildings and found herself fumbling about in the dark and the rain, trying to find the block with the sixth form study bedrooms on its top corridor. Luckily, she had looked carefully in daylight when planning her little expedition, but it took a good ten minutes of fumbling to find what she thought was the right drain pipe. If it was not the right drain pipe then the window she had left so carefully ajar would be shut and she would have to slide down and try again.
Then there was the risk someone could have shut it anyway and she would have to hide in some outbuilding till morning and creep in before anyone had noticed her absence. But if that happened there was a fair chance she would be caught and almost certainly get the cane, which she had endured before and did not relish the thought of. But on the other hand there was a real glory in everyone knowing you had been caned for a good prank, which she was not entirely averse to.
She gritted her teeth and gripped the drain pipe with her feet and hands and started to try to climb up. She was a good climber and had ascended improbably difficult trees in her time, but it was tremendous struggle. The rain had made the drainpipe extremely slippery and she thought for a while she just could not do it. However, it suddenly stopped raining which seemed to help and she struggled up at the third attempt after that, thinking to herself that the previous two efforts had probably removed a good deal of the water. Even then she grasped desperately at the window frame and only just stopped herself sliding back down. The window, mercifully, was still open and she had just enough strength left to haul herself through.
She collapsed in a very wet heap on the floor. To her horror, the light in the corridor flashed on and she realized Miss Merriweather, her housemistress, was walking towards her. She staggered to her feet, knowing she was caught red-handed and wondering if she was going to be caned immediately or in the morning? If it was now, would she be allowed to change and dry her hair first? For some reason the idea of being punished while she was in such a complete mess upset her more than the idea of the pain that was to come.
“Well, young lady, you look a trifle wet.” Observed Miss Merriweather briskly. “You had better go and give yourself a good towelling, and if you have a hair dryer, for goodness sake use it. I don’t want you catching your death of cold. Then change into your pyjamas and dressing gown and come to my study, bringing whatever is in that bag. I think there are things we need to discuss, don’t you? Not least why you are out of uniform.”
“Yes, Miss Merriweather.” Jenn uttered dismally, thinking, with a shiver that was not caused entirely by the cold, that the cane in pyjamas would be extremely painful. She hoped devoutly that part of the proceedings was going to be delayed till the morning, when at least she could slip a pair of reasonably thick knickers on, unless of course they caned hands at this school, which they had at her last but one, and had been extremely painful.
She staggered into the study she had to share with Sheila White, who she had already concluded in the couple of days she had been here was a totally useless wimp. She suspected she had ended up with Sheila because she was new and nobody else wanted to share with Sheila. And she was more than a little suspicious it was Sheila who had given her away.
She put on the light regardless, stripped off (hoping Sheila was not going to wake up and watch her) and towelled her body and then her hair vigorously, before putting on her pyjamas. Despite her annoyance with her roommate, she hesitated to use the hair dryer in case Sheila woke up, but then decided Miss Merriweather might be more annoyed than she already was if she did not arrive for her lecture with dry hair, so eventually got the hairdryer out and switched it on.
Sheila immediately woke and started jabbering that she was not the one who had grassed on her, which caused Jen to switch off the hair dryer with some annoyance.
“You must have grassed on me. I’ll scrag you when I get back from Miss Merriweather.” Jen said briefly, knowing as she said it that she probably wouldn’t scrag her roommate, because it might get her in to further trouble, but with luck Sheila would not realize that.
“Oh law! Please don’t scrag me!” Sheila was saying piteously. “Please, I didn’t get a chance to say a word. She just walked in and pulled the blankets off your bed and stormed out again.”
Jenn glanced at her bed and realised the sheets had been thrown back and the pillows she had arranged to hide her absence were plain to see. No doubt Miss Merriweather had come in and checked, so presumably it was not shitty Sheila’s fault.
“Sorry I thought you’d grassed.” Jenn replied, feeling slightly embarrassed.
“Did you get something?” Sheila asked.
“Can I see it?”
“Yes!” Jennifer snapped for the second time, thinking she was going to have to give it back to Miss Merriweather before she had a chance to show it to the Head Girl, and she was not quite sure what the consequences of that would be. Would they believe her when she said she had got the Fellowes School’s shield for cricket between the houses, which had been at the front of the display cabinet?
“That’s a real trophy!” Said Sheila appreciatively as she took it out of the dripping bag. “They don’t normally get something as good as that.”
“What do you mean, ’They don’t normally get something as good as that’?” snapped Jenn.
“Oh they just get something silly that’s lying round. I don’t think anyone before you has had the bottle to actually go into the school and really steal something worth stealing.”
“But they said a real trophy!” Said Jenn feeling baffled.
“Oh they always say that.”
Jenn found herself thinking that she need not have enlisted her brother and his pals to unlock doors for her. They had taken impressions of locks and got keys cut for her, which was really rather risky. Were they and she in more trouble than was really necessary? But she must not keep Miss Merriweather waiting. She switched the hair dryer back on and thoroughly dried her thick black hair. Then she put her dressing gown on again, wondering if her shivering was entirely to do with the wetting she had. She took the shield rather peremptorily from Sheila and departed very uneasily for Miss Merriweather’s study.
* * *
Jenn glanced uncertainly round the study. Apart from Miss Merriweather’s rather small desk, which was piled with paper and books, there were two armchairs and a couple of bookcases. Between the two armchairs there was a coffee table. She moved her eyes uneasily from the desk to the coffee table in search of a cane, but there wasn’t one. Oh god, did that mean she was going to have to wait till the morning to be punished; she would much rather have got it over. She looked at the armchairs and guessed victims had to bend over the side of one of them; the sides looked about the right height for a senior girl and it was how it had been done at her previous school.
“Do sit down girl.” Said Miss Merryweather. “I want to have a chat with you. But first I’d better get you some hot cocoa. I would not like you to go down with pneumonia as a result of your little escapade. Would you like a spoonful of rum in it?”
Jenn, who had started to do her fair share of drinking at least at home, muttered: “Yes, thank you, Miss Merryweather.”
She thought to herself that at least the rum might steady her a bit for what was coming as Miss Merryweather vanished through a door into what was, presumably, a small flat.
Then she sat crossing and uncrossing her legs and wondering how severe her housemistress was going to be after this much too nice beginning? She had no idea how good Miss Merryweather was with a cane, though she knew from the school rules (which she had read with the eye of someone who was likely to break them) that her house mistress could administer up to four strokes. Maddeningly, it had not said whether canings were on hands or bottoms. She would have to wait and see, she supposed.
Miss Merryweather emerged with a mug of steaming cocoa which smelt distinctly of alcohol and put it down on a mat on the coffee table, saying that she had put some cold milk on, so it could be drunk immediately. Jenn seized it and drank it almost too quickly, partly because she was genuinely glad of it, partly because she wanted to get to the difficult bit and get that over. Presumably four strokes, she decided, and presumably either very sore hands or a bottom that was uncomfortable to sit on. There was the wretched fact she had been out of school uniform, and it was not impossible they were going to take that very seriously indeed, perhaps even as seriously as the prank itself. She was quite probably going to be sent to the Headmistress for a punishment that was quite possibly going to be that bit worse than anything she had previously encountered. She had never previously been caught out on quite this scale!
Miss Merriweather said nothing while Jenn was drinking. Then she paused for an unnerving second after her errant pupil put the empty mug down on the table and hurriedly picked it up and put it on the mat it was supposed to go on.
“I am nearly asleep and I am sure you are too, since it is nearly three o’clock in the morning.” Miss Merriweather began unexpectedly. “I am very tempted to leave the full interview till the morning, but I think I had better see whatever it is that you have borrowed or stolen, depending on which way one looks at it. Pass me your bag.”
Jenn reached over and gave the bag to her housemistress and waited nervously for the reaction. Miss Merriweather extracted the shield and look at it with apparent surprise.
“You must have been in the main school building of the Fellowes School to get this. However, did you manage it? It can only be from the display cabinet by the Headmaster’s study, which must be locked. I sincerely hope you did not break the glass.”
“No, of course not, Miss Merriweather.” Jenn exclaimed and then cursed herself for having said it, for this was leading suspicion straight to her brother. She quickly added: “Someone had left it unlocked, I suppose, and it was the thing at the front that was small enough to carry.”
“And no doubt the same careless person omitted to lock the main school building properly, which was a grave mistake.” Miss Merriweather observed with something close to a giggle, then added: “Look, young lady, I have been dealing with these episodes for a number of years and I know that every time there is a late addition to our Sixth Form either the Prefects go into conclave behind closed doors and the new girl emerges with a face red with crying, or something rather silly like this happens.
“Our last headmistress, Miss Venables, took the view it was a school custom and not to be interfered with. Miss Thomson, who is now in her second year, thinks it is a form of bullying and not to be tolerated, with which I fully agree. If you will tell us more or less what happened, I don’t expect you to tell us every last detail, you can expect a fairly mild caning that will sting a little, but not too badly.
“Obviously, you cannot be let off completely. However, judging by what your last school told us, you have been caned quite a lot for a girl, so you will almost certainly find it easier than a lot of our girls would. Now are you prepared to co-operate, Madam? I would hate you to end up like I understand finally happened at your last school when you were expelled over that little lark with that firework, which does sound rather dangerous, I must say.”
“It was only a firecracker, Miss. I was only trying to scare those two silly idiots.”
“Be which as it may, your headmistress (and I cannot say I blame her) thought letting it off in the confined space of a study was extremely dangerous and could have caused a fire.”
“Oh, come on, Miss Merriweather, it was not that bad.”
“Maybe it was or it was not, but I should warn you that your previous headmistress strongly suggested to Miss Thomson that we should not take you, and she only agreed because I said that you sounded a girl with some character and initiative of a sort that we rarely get. So I think you are going to be pretty close to the edge with Miss Thomson after this little episode, and I am afraid I cannot really not tell her what you have been up to, so it is her study that you will end up in tomorrow morning, whether you make a clean breast of it now, or not.”
“So I get the cane either way, Miss, but not so severely if I snitch?”
“Yes, that is a fair summary. So, there is a reasonable chance the other girls will think you did not grass and the head got her information elsewhere, because you got the cane anyway. Incidentally, I should warn you that Miss Thomson was a county tennis player in her time and my god she can cane. The only time I saw her cane a girl from my house, I think I was as shaken as the girl. She topped and tailed her and it really was quite frightening.”
“That means hands and bottom doesn’t it, Miss?” Jenn asked nervously.
“Yes it does. And believe me when I cane a girl there are usually a reasonable number of tears, but that young lady squealed her head off.
Anyway, if you don’t want to give me a decision now, you can either slip into my study at some point before breakfast and we will discuss it further. Or, if you prefer it, go and stand outside Miss Thomson’s study after breakfast and you can discuss it all with her. Fair enough?”
“I suppose so, Miss. I really don’t want to be a grass.”
“Well, think of it as ending a very silly tradition. Now, go back to your study and get some sleep. And don’t forget your Prep in the morning; Miss Thomson is bound to ask if you have done it.”
* * *
“Where the hell am I?” She thought, then realised she was in the study she shared with Sheila, who was determinedly shaking her.
“Better move, its well past seven and you need to get washed and do Prep. They hate it here if you don’t get Prep done. They’re terribly keen on it and you are already in hot water. How did it go with Merry? Did you get swished?”
“No, but I am going to be. I’ve got to see Tommo after breakfast.”
“Poor thing, that is dreadful. Everyone says Tommo canes really hard. It is just the cane is it? It would be horrid if you got expelled.”
“I hope it is just the cane!” Said Jenn, sounding extremely uncertain and feeling she could do without Sheila’s speculations.
“Is it hands or bottom? Tommo will probably give you a choice, she usually does. I’d put your thickest knickers on, by the way. Blotting paper or putting two pairs on never works. She always spots it, apparently.” Sheila jabbered on, sounding surprisingly clued up.
“How do you know that? You haven’t been caned, have you?”
“No, no, I’m much too good. Two of my friends got it last year. One tried blotting paper and one put two pairs of knickers on. They both got found out and got extra. They really were in a state afterwards.”
Jenn refrained from saying that she could have done without the sympathy. However, the advice about knickers seemed sound and she went through her drawer and carefully chose the thickest and fullest she had. She had just decided to skip washing and get on with Prep and had put her bra and vest and blouse and tie on and got her gymslip half over her head and there was a knock on the door, which Sheila answered. She pulled her gymslip the rest of the way and realised it was a very edgy Fiona Fairfax, the Head Girl herself.
“How did it go? I heard you got caught and swished by Merry. You didn’t mention any names, I hope.” Fiona almost growled in her deep, almost boyish voice.
“No! I gave no one away and I won’t. But Merry did catch me. She played clever with me and let me think about it over night, but I am going to get it from Tommo herself, straight after breakfast.” Jen said sounding much more nonchalant than she felt.
“If you give her any names, I will give you the spanking I promised you on your bare bum in front of all the prefects.” Fiona growled.
“There is no need whatever to make threats; I am not in the habit of giving people away. And anyway, if anyone made me do this stupid prank, that was you; and if I did betray you I doubt if you would be in a position to carry out that threat.” Jenn said firmly and with just a hint of the considerable anger that she was feeling.
“Sorry, I did not quite mean to make it sound quite like that.” Fiona Fairfax said very lamely, then added she was sure that Jenn would do the right thing.
Then the head girl was retreating rather rapidly through the door. Jenn sardonically concluded Fiona was scared of being seen with her, which in the circumstances was not that surprising. She reflected on the size of Fiona’s bottom and wondered what it would look like bent over a chair for a sound caning with only a tightly stretched pair of knickers for protection. But why had Fiona made such a stupid threat? She must be feeling rattled herself, it was the only explanation. Yet it was reasonably probable that the headmistress’s justice would stop short of the Head Girl, for appearances sake if nothing else.
Then, to her surprise, she heard Sheila saying that as far as she was concerned the Head Girl’s outburst removed any obligation on Jenn not to grass. As an expression of public opinion it was intriguing, but it meant breaching a code that Jenn had never breached. She decided she really did not know what she was going to tell Miss Thomson and it would take her mind off it to do her Maths Prep, so she sat down and got on with it.
* * *
Jen had more than slightly reluctantly gone and stood outside Miss Thomson’s door at eight-twenty, which was the beginning of the gap in the time table between Breakfast, which she had skipped, and Assembly at nine, but so far nothing had happened. She had knocked on the door, but so far it had been ignored, though it was clear there was a light on and there were definitely voices. She glanced at the clock on the wall and realized she had been standing there less than ten minutes, though it felt like eternity.
Then the door was opening and she shivered like a leaf. Then Miss Thomson was beckoning her in front of her desk. She noticed Miss Merriweather out of the corner of her eye sitting in one of the armchairs. Presumably the housemistress was not taking part in this bit of her punishment. Was she here to hold her? Jenn’s pride flared up at that. She was quite capable of taking her punishment without being held!
“Now, Miss Jennifer Smith,” the headmistress was saying briskly. “I am sure you know you are here to be punished for being out of bounds after lights out, and not even in school uniform, quite apart from stealing from our neighbours at the Fellowes School, who are quite rightly indignant at one of their most valuable trophies being taken. Now have you anything to say before we proceed?”
“It was really not stealing, Miss,” Jennifer protested. “We were going to put it back.”
“By We I presume you mean your brother and you, do you?”
“Yes, Miss Thomson.”
“Well you may like to know, Jennifer Smith, that at some point today, possibly even now, your brother, John isn’t it, will be reaching for his toes and experiencing the full force of Mr Rowntree’s very considerable anger over this incident. I am more than a little surprised that, before you got your brother into this, you did not pause to consider that if you were caught it would not take long to work out who your accomplice was and the very severe consequences for him. Well girl?”
“Yes, Miss Thomson.” Said Jenn wretchedly, imagining her brothers thin grey flannels taut across his far from huge bottom. John would probably really yell. He was not that brave and he was not used to the cane like she was. Father had never caned him and, as far as she knew, he had escaped it at school. Mother always said she should have been the boy and John should have been the girl, which was a touch unkind.
“And moreover, whatever your own intentions, several items obtained in these wretched raids on the Fellowes School have never been returned, and more than one of them has been of some value. All in all, I think you deserve the cane, both for your own sins and as a deterrent to others, don’t you agree, Jennifer Smith?”
She almost said she supposed so, and then thought that perhaps she really did deserve it, so murmured: “Yes, Miss Thomson,” almost inaudibly.
“Good Lord, was that ‘yes’?” Enquired Miss Thomson.
“She was fairly contrite last night, though she did not like to give away the girls who had put her up to it.” Miss Merriweather’s voice cut in.
“Well I am genuinely glad to see that you admit your guilt and accept you have to be punished; it does show a sense of responsibility.” Miss Thomson observed with more than slight pompousness.
However,” she went on. “What I would really like is to put an end to is this nonsense of every girl who comes fresh to the Sixth Form without having been in the school before has either to take an extremely humiliating spanking, or undertake a prank at the neighbouring boys school. Are you prepared to break ranks and at least admit this goes on? It strikes me as a most unfortunate piece of bullying, pure and simple.”
Jenn paused. She did not want to snitch, but on the other hand the Head Girl had been really nasty when she had given her the original choice, and indeed this morning. Was there a half way? She realised the two women were waiting very patiently for what she had to say. What was the joke her father was always saying about government departments? That they always said that they neither confirmed nor denied things, which usually meant they confirmed them. Would that do?
“I can neither confirm nor deny that it goes on.” She said as neutrally as she could.
Miss Thomson burst into hysterical laughter. Miss Merryweather looked puzzled.
“So can you confirm or indeed deny that it is customary for the Head Girl to give a bare bottom spanking to any girl who will not accept this mission?” Miss Thomson asked when she had stopped laughing.
“I cannot confirm or deny it.”
“Can you confirm or deny that you yourself were threatened with such a punishment.”
“I cannot confirm or deny it.”
“Well that gives me more or less what I wanted to know. At least it does with these two letters I have from old girls, which tell me what happened five years ago in some detail, and why they think it should be stopped if it is still going on. Clearly, it is still going on and must be stopped. But as a matter of interest, Jennifer, why did you choose such an elaborate prank? Come on, you can answer that.”
“I just thought it was fun, Miss, and I liked the adventure.”
“Well that is honest and we are clearly never going to make a young lady out of you, though I would never be surprised if you became one of our more interesting politicians. But now I suppose I’d better cane you, since it is what you are here for. What do you think Miss Merriweather, five of the best, or four?”
“Personally I’d give her six of the very best. She is a real toughie, this girl, and she has just been extremely cheeky.”
“No, that is a little hard on her. She has been quite co-operative. And, Miss Merriweather, go and find Fiona Fairfax and her cronies, would you? But before you do that, please search out Miss Ashton. I think we shall need two of you to hold Miss Fairfax in place for her come-uppance. And tell my secretary to cancel Assembly for this morning, except for prayers, which Miss Marks can take. First period can start early.”
“Won’t you need me here to hold Jennifer Smith?”
“No, Miss Merriweather, somehow I think she can be relied to take her punishment without too much fuss.”
Then Miss Merriweather was going out of the door and Jenn was being told to go and pull her gym slip above her waist and bend over the side of the further armchair. At that, she felt her heart go into her boots and she felt quite dizzy. For a few seconds she had thought she probably was not going to be caned after all, and now very definitely she was. She staggered to the armchair, trying not to cry, and cursing herself that this punishment still got to her after all the times she had been caned at home and at school. But she was determined not to let Miss Thomson down and have to be held.
She gritted her teeth and pulled her gymslip right above her waist and bent over the side of the armchair and gripped the cushion as if her life depended on it. At least Miss Thomson did not waste much time in preliminaries. She felt the cane tap her knickers low down on her bottom. Miss Thomson asked if she was ready and she murmured: “Yes, Miss,” as she thought to herself she would never be ready for this.
The cane swished viciously into her lower bottom about a third of the way up and really hurt. She heard herself screech and felt a large weal rising. Any doubts she had about Miss Thomson’s formidable reputation with a cane were dispelled by that. Sheila was most definitely not exaggerating. The second stroke came alarmingly quickly; both her father and her previous headmistress left large uncomfortable gaps between strokes and it caught her completely off balance. It caught the soft top of her thighs and she really wailed and the tears started to come in floods. Then the other three strokes were mercilessly filling in the gap between the first two and she was really howling, and kicking her legs about, and she could not stop herself. She remained slumped over the chair, clutching her bottom and wailing for several minutes. Then Miss Thomson was saying briskly it was time for her to go and she hoped she had learnt her lesson. And if she needed some cream, she should go to matron.
All this she remembered in great detail for the rest of her life. The rest of the day was much foggier and she spent much of it face down on her bed crying her eyes out. She was barely aware of the great dramas that were going on around her, during which the head girl and her deputy were both demoted and then caned for severe bullying.
It was a strange couple of weeks that followed with no head girl or deputy, though Jenn rather cynically wondered if the school did not run almost as well without them. Then one day she was summoned to Miss Thomson’s study and was asked if she would like to be the new Head Girl.
“But I have always been a rebel, you cannot possibly want ME, Miss Thomson. Surely, you cannot want me?” She observed in some bewilderment.
“I want you,” her headmistress replied. “Precisely because I know that you can be relied upon to tell me the truth about what you think, and not what you think I want to hear. I like rebels with a bit of courage and intelligence, and in my experience of schoolgirls those are very rare qualities, and you have them.”
Jenn rather bewilderedly accepted and left the headmistress’s study, thinking to herself that if nothing else this must mean that she had finally had her last caning, unless, that is, she had another run in with her Father, who would, she was quite sure, never really believe her promotion.
© Jane Fairweather 2016
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