A normally quiet girl has her moment of fame
By Jane Fairweather
The whistle went and the eleven players of the First Hockey Eleven of the Winifred Long School for girls gave a collective shriek of joy that they had at long last beaten St Agatha’s, who were by far the best of the teams in the unofficial league that all the local girls schools played in. Then, by some wild instinct, ten of the eleven hurled themselves upon the slight, shy figure of Josh Stephenson, whose brilliant run down the wing from half way just two minutes before, had won a match during which Winifred Long had been penned remorselessly in their own half.
“Come on girls, give poor Josh breathing space!” Miss Haynes was saying firmly but kindly.
Miss H was widely known as ‘the Hyena’ among the younger girls to whom she was ferocious, but genuinely well-liked by the older ones. However one did not argue with Miss H and the girls rather reluctantly separated themselves, leaving Josh slightly bewildered at her sudden glory; she was a quiet hard working girl, not particularly popular and not used to being the toast of her fellows.
Then she realized Miss Duncan, the St Agatha’s Games Mistress, had strode up to Miss Haynes and a heated argument was in progress.
“I saw it with my own eyes, Miss Haynes. Your girl was clearly over the half way line when she started and there was only our full back and the goal keeper between her and the goal. That is clearly offside. You and Miss Cartwright as umpires clearly got it wrong. I think we should agree to call it a draw between ourselves.”
“Miss Duncan, I also have eyes;” Miss Haynes retorted astringently, and I was acting as umpire in the half of the pitch Jocelynn started her run in and I am quite certain that Jocelynn Stephenson was just inside the half way line on our side of the pitch when she started her run, so she was not offside. Anyway, you cannot overturn my own and Miss Cartwright’s decision as umpires. For goodness sake accept it. We agreed that you would do the first half with Miss Cartwright and I would do the second half with her, so we would avoid previous arguments like this.”
“We were both umpires in one half. We could agree between ourselves to call it a draw, whatever Susan Cartwright says.” Miss Duncan declared stubbornly.
“Really, Eliza, just accept you lost.” Said Miss Cartwright, who was from a third and neutral school and had just joined them. “I know it’s tough when you do everything but win a match, but just leave it, would you?”
“Well, we could ask the girl.” Said Miss Duncan. “She must know if she was over the half way line or not.”
“It was quite difficult to call.” Miss Cartwright remarked, suddenly sounding rather diffident. “It might not be a bad idea to ask the girl. Will you both accept that?”
“I suppose so.” Said Miss Haynes, sounding decidedly irritable, but clearly accepting the majority was against her. “Josh Stephenson, step over here, would you?”
“Oh God!” Thought Josh, but she made herself walk over to the three grown women, though her heart was pounding and she felt sick.
“Now girl, you were quite definitely over the half way line when you started your run, weren’t you? Just tell us the truth and we can all agree on a well-earned draw, which would be fair to both sides.” Miss Duncan stated very angrily and aggressively before either of the other women could say anything.
“I most certainly was not.” Josh said, feeling an anger rising in her that she had never encountered before, but then no one had ever accused her of cheating before.
“How dare you lie, girl!” Miss Duncan exclaimed majestically.
Looking back, Josh always thought she should have left it to Miss Haynes to defend her honour. Miss Haynes was not called ‘The Hyena’ for nothing. However, this newly discovered temper flashed.
“You are a cow!” She said very deliberately. “We won this game fair and square. How dare you try to take it away from us; we really fought for this.”
“What did you just call me?” Miss Duncan demanded in her deep, mannish voice.
Miss Haynes and Miss Cartwright were saying in the same breath that this outburst was heat of the moment and should be ignored, and if Josh had had any sense, as she often told herself in later years, she would have taken advantage of this to back down, at least about calling Miss Duncan a cow.
However, she said very quietly and deliberately: “I called you a fucking cow, Miss Duncan, and you deserve it.”
Then Miss Duncan was saying very angrily that she was not staying here to be insulted and rushing her players into the visiting team’s changing room and then into the coach, ignoring the tea that was waiting for them.
Back in their own changing room, Josh and her fellow team mates rather bemusedly showered and got dressed, wondering just what was coming.
“That took some bottle, Josh, saying that to Miss Duncan of all people!!” May Irving, the First XI captain, came up to her and said when she had finished changing. “I do hope it does not have consequences though. I will speak for you if it does, of course.”
Miss Haynes waited till her girls were changed, then strode up to Josh and started to tell her off ferociously for being so rude. Josh waited with a sense of the inevitable for the announcement she was going to be sent to the Headmistress, which had never happened to her before. Miss Lawrence had never been that keen on her, but tended to like the more obviously exuberant, naughty girls, such indeed as May Irving, and had on more than one occasion accused her of not working hard enough, which was quite outrageous. She was certainly in for quite a lecture, she decided, and just possibly the slipper, though that was usually reserved for Juniors.
However, with any luck the fact she had upheld the honour of the school would save her from any question of corporal punishment, provided Miss Lawrence’s long standing dislike of her did not blind her to what was fair.
She barely listened to Miss Haynes, for she knew that the inevitable visit to the Headmistress was what would really count. The question was, would she get the slipper, or not? And that in her view was all that really mattered.
“And so, Miss Stephenson, you had better get yourself off to the head. I only hope she does not totally lose it and cane you, which you at least half deserve, though what you did was, I have to admit, quite ridiculously brave and if I have the chance I will speak up for you,” Miss Haynes was saying.
It suddenly entered in to Josh’s head that, though the slipper was the usual punishment for serious offences, the cane was by no means unknown. Oh please not the cane! It must really hurt. But was this really serious enough to warrant it? She just did not know.
But then the oddest thing happened. Suddenly Patsy, Josh’s sister from the Fourth Form, was there and saying Miss Lawrence wanted to see Josh immediately.
“You seem to be having quite a day, Miss Stephenson.” Miss Haynes observed with a wintry smile. “You’d better get off with you. And you’d better make sure you tell the Head what happened just now as well as any other explanations you have to give. I shall be checking with her later that she is aware of your behaviour this afternoon. I only hope you are not in for two punishments in one day. That would be a pity after that goal. Do tell her I would like to speak to her before she does anything.”
Josh embarrassedly walked out of the door accompanied by her sister, thinking Miss Lawrence was famous for ignoring the views of her staff. But what was she in trouble for now? Her heart descended in the general direction of her boots, and for a little while she could not bear to ask Patsy what was going on.
They went for a good thirty or forty yards before Josh looked at Patsy and realized her sister’s eyes were red with crying.
“Patsy, what on earth is going on?” She asked, trying to sound more nonchalant than she was; she was just not going to let her younger sister see how worried and upset she was.
“I’ve just had the slipper for smoking.” She heard Patsy’s slightly tremulous voice saying.
This was not wholly unexpected. Patsy had had the slipper twice before, though not for smoking as far as she knew, but it was also rather baffling. Why should she be hauled in because her sister had been done for smoking?
“So why does she want to see me?” Josh asked eventually.
“It was that ciggy packet you gave me.”
“But that was way back in the hols. I never meant you to smoke them in school. Oh god, Patsy, what have you done! You surely did not say I had given you cigarettes, did you? I could get the cane. I am already up to my neck in it for swearing!” Josh said with real alarm and something approaching anger, though she was genuinely fond of her younger sister.
“I couldn’t do much about it. You’d written your initials on it and she spotted it straight off. Miss Brewster caught me in the loos and took me straight to her, complete with the stupid packet.”
“But I only wrote my initials because you had been nicking my cigarettes and I wanted to make you feel guilty. And then I gave you the last four because I felt guilty about depriving you. I thought they would have been smoked weeks ago before we got back to school. Our parents don’t mind that much and school does. It is stupid to smoke at school; I have told you that before. Anyway, what did you get, poor thing?”
“Five really hard ones. It hurt a lot. It was the worst punishment I have ever had and I have had a few. She was really mad with me and she whacked me as hard as she could. She took my gym slip up too, which was embarrassing, quite apart from the pain. My first two times she left it down and it took a bit of the sting off.”
“Between Dad and Miss Lawrence, you are getting to be quite an authority on these things!” Josh observed with casual bravado.
However, bravado or not, Josh knew she was shaking slightly. She was almost certainly going to have her own skirts taken up for either the slipper or the cane, probably the cane and she was almost certainly going to be in for quite a bit more pain than her sister, who had clearly not got off lightly. There was just a chance the cane would be on her hands. It was in some schools, wasn’t it? And the cane was so rare here that she was not sure. Somehow, it did not sound like Miss Lawrence though. She was probably going to find herself bending over. If it was the slipper, would she get it bare? That must really hurt and she absolutely hated the idea of her knickers being taken down. And was the cane ever given bare? She shuddered even more at that thought and prayed her sister was not noticing what a state of nerves she was in.
“I am really sorry, Josh.” Patsy was saying. The possible consequences for her big sister were clearly dawning rapidly.
“It is one of those things. I should not have given you the cigarettes and you should not have smoked them in school, you little imp. Oh well, I expect I will live.” Josh replied as mildly as she could, determined to give the impression she was taking this awful situation in her stride, and anyway not wanting Patsy to be too upset.
They approached the door of the secretary through whose portals was the door that said ‘Headmistress’ on it.
* * *
Half an hour later, they were not a great deal further on. Miss Lawrence had been on the phone and not able to see them immediately. Miss Roberts, the elderly, grey-suited School secretary, had suggested they sat down while they waited. Patsy had visibly wriggled a lot because she was genuinely tender from her slippering and Josh had wriggled almost as much because she was so nervous. From time to time, Miss Roberts gave them a sardonic glance and Josh had the distinct impression that the School secretary was enjoying the situation rather more than was nice.
“It is not hurting quite so much, thank goodness.” Patsy suddenly said conversationally to the world in general.
“It goes relatively quickly. I remember that from when I was a girl.” Miss Roberts observed. “And then you get an odd feeling. I won’t say a nice one, but not that unpleasant.”
“I have not quite got to that bit yet, but I got it last time.” Patsy replied.
“The cane is worse, I think.” Miss Roberts added. “My father used to swish me sometimes. Generally it is worse than a spanking if it is done hard, not that my father would have done it that hard unless I really deserved it, which from time to time I undoubtedly did. Then it goes on for a while. I don’t say you can’t sit down, but it gets very uncomfortable.”
“Please don’t talk about it. I am going to have to go through it in a minute.” Josh found herself almost pleading.
“Oh I am sorry. I should have thought about it; I am a big mouth.” Patsy said.
Miss Roberts smiled but did not say anything more.
Then the door opened and they were in Miss Lawrence’s study, standing in front of her desk and being subjected to a relentless inquisition. Where did Josh keep her other cigarettes? Josh protested she did smoke a little at home, but she had never done it in school. So, why did this packet have her initials on? It had clearly been found in school and clearly Patsy had smoked cigarettes from it in school. Josh repeated she had never smoked in school. Patsy firmly supported Josh and said she was responsible for bringing the packet into school. Miss Lawrence observed she appreciated that Patsy was trying to help her big sister, but she just did not believe her.
This circle of very limited conversation repeated itself for nearly twenty minutes, except that towards the end of it Miss Lawrence grew exasperated and began to threaten Patsy with further punishment with more than a hint that it might be the cane this time. Josh at first doubted if these threats would be carried out. Then, as the anger in Miss Lawrence’s voice mounted, Josh began to wonder if she should make a totally false confession to save her little sister from a second slippering in one day, or possibly even the cane.
Then, for the second time that day, something very odd happened. At precisely the moment that Josh had finally decided she would have to make a totally false confession to save her little sister from further severe punishment, the phone went. Miss Lawrence let it ring for a moment while she finished the latest sentence of her inquisition, then with an air of annoyance picked it up.
“I really am quite busy, Miss Scotland. Can it wait a minute? I could ring you back. Well if it is that urgent, tell me now, I suppose. What did Miss Duncan tell you? That she was called ‘a fucking cow’ by one of my senior girls? That is extraordinary! I wonder what on earth brought that on. I don’t suppose you know her name? How very odd, she is in my office at this very moment for something quite different. Yes, of course she will be dealt with. We cannot have things like that, can we? Yes, thank you for telling me. Since the girl is here I will deal with it now. Yes, I will ring back and tell you the outcome.”
Miss Lawrence put the phone down very deliberately and seemed to pause and think with an odd half smile on her face. Josh was very aware of Patsy glancing sideways at her, looking completely bewildered. She was also very conscious that if she could disappear into the depths of the earth and never emerge again, she would be extremely grateful.
Miss Lawrence’s half smile suddenly changed into quite a loud chuckle. Then she started to look at Josh again with a much more relaxed face than hitherto. Josh flinched.
“Jocelynn Stephenson,” the head mistress observed. “I have not often been totally amazed in the twenty years I have been in this job, but at this moment I am completely astonished. I have always thought you a mouse, if I am honest, far too much of a mouse for your own good. And yet I have just been informed by my fellow headmistress that you, of all people, had the courage to call that dreadful woman, Miss Duncan, ‘a fucking cow’. And that on top of your unwonted and rather strange defiance over these cigarettes.
“Now, I have to admit there have been several occasions when I would have liked to have said something very similar to Miss Duncan, when she has been crowing over her team’s successes, but having been brought up to be ladylike, I have never actually done it.
“Now before we start talking about what your punishment is going to be, and for something like this there will have to be a punishment, and a severe one, please tell me as honestly as you can, what happened. I would be quite glad of something that would enable me to mitigate the severity of your inevitable punishment.”
Josh gulped. Was she in danger of being expelled? Up to this point it had never occurred to her there was any possibility of it.
“Come on girl! What happened?” Miss Lawrence snapped, clearly irritated by the silence. “Or do you want me to ring the station and find out when your next train home is?”
Josh heard Patsy gasp.
Then she reluctantly opened her mouth and it all came out in a flood.
“I was playing right wing and St Agatha’s had penned us right back in our own half for pretty well the whole match. It was a miracle they had not scored, not once, but several times, but somehow they hadn’t. Then, nearly at the end of the game, I was just inside our half and the ball came to me with one defender and the goal keeper between me and the St Agatha Goal. I got round the defender and managed to put it past the goal keeper.”
“So we have actually beaten St Agatha’s!” Miss Lawrence expostulated. “I was so sure we wouldn’t, I haven’t even bothered to ask.”
Josh went on almost as if Miss Lawrence had not said anything. “After the match Miss Duncan tried to claim I had been offside, because she said I started just inside the St Agatha’s half.”
“I am not much into hockey; I get fed up with the niceties and I have had to put up with so many comments about Jolly Hockey Sticks. Why do you think you were not offside, or whatever it is called?”
“Because you are not offside if you start from your own half; and I know I was in my half, because I could see the halfway line a foot in front of me.”
“Why did you get involved at all? Why did the members of staff not work it out between them?”
“Miss Haynes and Miss Cartwright were umpiring the Second Half, Miss Duncan and Miss Cartwright had done the First Half. At the time, nothing was said, but after the match when Miss Duncan started going on about me being offside, then Miss Cartwright suddenly seemed not quite sure which half I had been in, so I was called over. When I said the truth, Miss Duncan called me a liar, so I told her what I thought of her.”
“It sounds to me as if Miss Cartwright was put under quite unreasonable pressure by Miss Duncan. Is that how you would phrase it, Miss Stephenson?”
The large abyss in the floor seemed suddenly to close.
“Yes, Miss Lawrence.”
“And I imagine Miss Haynes would tell much the same story as you?”
“I imagine so, Miss.”
“I would dearly like to leave the whole matter and just tell St Agatha’s that Miss Duncan was very out of order herself.” Miss Lawrence stated very deliberately. “And if you had had the sense to use strong, but unexceptionable language, that is precisely what I would do. Indeed you would be free to go, at least as regards this rather silly matter. However, you were foolish enough to swear at a senior member of staff of another school, and for that you will be caned. I don’t see any other solution with a senior girl, other than expelling you, which in the circumstances would be more than a little unfair.”
The abyss in the floor opened up again.
“Patricia, if you would be kind enough to fetch that chair from the corner that you were bending over earlier. Put it in something like the middle of the carpet, would you. Thank you, Patricia.”
Poor Josh found herself resuming her earlier shaking as she stood ringing her hands and gazing at the floor while her younger sister did as she was told and fetched the small chair from the Junior department that stood ready in the corner of the Headmistress’s study.
“Now if you would be kind enough, Jocelynn Stephenson, to come over here and put your hands on the chair. Hold the sides if you prefer, but stay in position or you will get extra.”
Josh very reluctantly staggered over to the chair and somehow managed to make herself bend at the waist. She gripped the cold wooden sides and took a deep breath. She felt her pleated grey skirt and white cotton petticoat being pulled above her waist and realized just how tightly her white cotton knickers had stretched.
“Right, Miss Stephenson, your backside is now going to endure two strokes of the cane for swearing, however justifiably, at Miss Duncan. Learn to temper your language in future. It is quite possible to be extremely forthright without swearing. I do it all the time. And then we will say another two strokes for providing your sister with cigarettes, which I am not going to argue about. You clearly did it whether it was at home or at school. Don’t do it again. Stand where you have a good view, Patricia. Watching your elder sister undergo the ultimate punishment for a school girl should be very salutary; you have been getting rather too naughty for your own good recently.”
There was a brief deeply uncomfortable wait while Miss Lawrence got out her cane and swished it about. Then Josh felt the cane lightly tap the middle of her bottom half a dozen times.
“Please don’t cane me! I am so sorry!” She finally cried out.
By way of answer the cane swished very hard into the middle of her bottom. For a second, she thought it had not hurt much, but then there was an awful wave of pain that brought tears to her eyes.
The cane tapped slowly again, seven, eight, nine times, slightly lower down the buttocks. Josh pleaded desperately. The cane swished again and she yelped almost in anticipation of the pain and felt her bottom jerk forward and back.
By this time, she was really blubbering and pleading hysterically, but it did her no good. The third stroke, when it came, cut neatly across the previous two, which really hurt. The fourth was the hardest of all and caught the soft skin where her bottom and thighs met.
“Yeow!” She shrieked and leapt to her feet, clutching her bottom and wailing like a baby.
She jumped up and down for some while, trying to ring the pain out while she was doing it. Gradually she realized that Patsy was watching her with a mixture of horror and embarrassment, and she somehow made herself stop crying and stand still. She very self-consciously pulled down her petticoat and skirt and thought with deep embarrassment what a fool she had just made of herself.
“Well, Miss Stephenson, you can go. I hope you have learnt your lesson. Incidentally, your sister took a hard slippering earlier today with almost no noise. In the unlikely event of this lesson having to be repeated, I hope you will bear that in mind and behave with more dignity.
“Now, Patricia, perhaps you would be kind enough to escort your sister somewhere private and minister to the condition of her bottom. Rub some Vaseline in, or something. You have my permission not to go back to your own class for another hour. And Jocelynn, I shall be ringing Miss Scotland at St Agatha’s to inform her that you have been dealt with as I promised but that I am also quite disgusted with Miss Duncan’s behaviour. Shut the door on the way out, would you?”
* * *
“It was the most excruciating half an hour of my life.” Josh said in a moment of frankness to her sister almost twenty years later. “I had never been punished before, and it was so severe. She had no right to say I made a fuss.”
“If I am honest, I thought you made a fuss,” Her sister replied. “But then I’d had a few spankings at home and I’d had the slipper at school, so I suppose I was more used to it. Maybe I had a tougher hide. Anyway your famous four stroke caning certainly did not take half an hour. I don’t think it was more than five minutes, if that.”
“It certainly felt like half an hour.” Josh retorted with real feeling. “And sitting down was not that easy afterwards. What was it like to watch, anyway? You have never told me that.”
“It was quite funny in a grotestque way. The way you kept pushing backwards and forwards and wailing. But also upsetting and embarrassing, because you were my sister. And also…”
“I hate to admit it, but it did something for me. I’ve often thought of it at, shall we say, significant moments with both my husbands, though I didn’t feel that at the time, when I think I was more shocked than anything.”
“Oh I see.” Josh said rather lamely. “I suppose if I am honest it has had similar effects on me. Thinking about it or telling it to my latest man definitely does things for me. Is that good or bad, I wonder? And do you know the other odd effect?”
“I went from being not particularly liked to one of the most popular girls in the Sixth. There was an odd kudos in getting caned. People actually begged to see my marks, which was ridiculous. And standing up to Miss Duncan really impressed people. I am sure it was why Miss Haynes made me First Eleven captain after May Irving left. But I never want to go through pain like that again; it was horrible.”
“Not too bad, then, overall!” Said Patsy dryly. “Undergoing the ultimate in school girl punishment. Personally I have always been a little bit jealous that you got it and I didn’t.”
“Oh, I suppose so.” Josh replied, grinning ambiguously.
© Jane Fairweather 2017
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