A young teacher seeks the help of a senior
By Jane Fairweather
Whack! went Miss Montgomery’s large white tennis shoe, very hard and with very good timing, into Ruth Mills’ tightly stretched rust-coloured knickers for the sixth time that afternoon.
“Ow, ow, ow. That really hurt!” The slightly tearful, red-headed victim said before standing up from the low stool she had been clutching, feeling her small bottom with some feeling and then pulling her gym-slip back down.
She then glanced rather awkwardly at her housemistress, knowing she must wait for permission to go, and Miss Montgomery would give it when she was ready and not before. She and Miss Montgomery were old enemies, or friends, depending on how you looked at it. She actually quite liked Miss Montgomery; at least you always knew where you were with her.
“Really, Ruth Mills! Six with the slipper, twice in two weeks.” Miss Montgomery stated ferociously. “If anything like this happens again this term, you will go to the headmistress for the cane; and I mean that. Taking the lead in teasing a new mistress is bad enough, and I told you last week what I thought of your behaviour to Miss Rodgers, but you and your pals teasing a nice shy girl like Susan Fennimore, who has only just got here and needs support, not bullying, is quite beyond a joke. Don’t expect any mercy if you and your friends come before me for anything like this ever again!”
“I do understand, Miss, I won’t let it happen again. In fact, I really do feel a bit ashamed. You really got through to me with that telling-off. I really do see what we did was wrong. Can I please go, Miss?” Ruth asked, wondering how long it was going to be before her bottom stopped aching, but also feeling some genuine contrition.
It was just not like Miss Montgomery to go quite so over the top with a punishment, and she knew her housemistress well enough to know that she had made Miss Montgomery really angry this time. While she was quite used to being punished for minor offences, this was somehow something different; quite possibly Miss Montgomery had a pash on Susan. If so, they had better watch it in future. But something in Ruth genuinely did not like making her housemistress really angry.
“Yes, Miss Mills, you can go, and don’t let me see you for something like this again, ever.” Miss Montgomery stated with real ferocity.
Ruth crept out of the door, hoping she had not made a real enemy of her housemistress and wondering if the cane would really have been worse than what she had just endured.
Serena refrained from smiling at the very pleasing fact that she seemed to have got through to the rebellious, but normally rather delightful, Ruth Mills. She put her slipper away, put the kettle on the little gas ring, and sat for a while contemplating.
It was intriguing, she thought, that Ruth and her pals, who had all been very soundly slippered, had made less fuss than the two juniors who had only endured three mild whacks for moderately bad behaviour in class. And Ruth, despite a few tears, had made less fuss after six than her two friends had after four.
It would be unkind to Serena Montgomery to say that she enjoyed Friday evenings at six o’clock, when she had to administer either slipperings or severe lectures, but certainly they were that bit different to her normally very dull week as a house mistress. Apart from Friday evening at six o’clock, there was so little to do except see that the girls were washed and dressed at the correct times, and got to lessons at the right time, did not skip out on Assembly, and put out lights at the correct time; and occasionally act as mother confessor, which she was quite good at.
She would indeed have left long since if it were not for the present severe depression, which made finding another job problematic and needing time to get over her failed romance with Jack Henderson, which still hurt her, so she could not even look at another man. At least she had time to scribble stories for women’s magazines, which very occasionally got into print, which was something; and she was wor king on a novel, but whether it would ever be finished or indeed published she was not at all sure.
No, but for those trying facts she would have left after her first year and, as it was, she was now into her fourth Autumn at this school; it was October and as usual the leaves were beginning to fall and she was wondering yet again if she was going to die an old maid. She was almost twenty-seven and it was not long to thirty, at which point she felt any hope of marriage must end. Not that she was a virgin, she was quite proud of that; but maybe she should have left something for Jack to discover. Anyway, that was all over and there was no new man in sight.
She heard the kettle begin to boil and put some tea in the teapot and fished the milk out of the dark cupboard where, hopefully, it had stayed cool and something like fresh. Then she made the tea and waited for it to brew. And finally she got out a cup and saucer and prepared to pour the tea and drink it.
She was just wondering if the English tea ceremony was as elaborate in its way as the Japanese one that her former boyfriend had once described to her, when there was a knock on the door. She cursed; would she get away with pretending not to be here? She sat silent for a second, but a second knock followed remorselessly, so very unwillingly she walked to the door, hoping it was not anything important.
It was in fact the tall and elegant Miss Rodgers, who she barely knew, though it was already clear that she was the present favourite of Miss Harmon, the not very good headmistress, despite difficulties in keeping order in her classes. But then being a first rate Classicist from Cambridge was the sort of thing that always commended you to Miss Harmon, Serena thought bitchily. Yet it was hard not to be struck by those black eyes and that splendid auburn hair.
And, curiously, Alexandra Michaels, a plump and dumpy girl from the Upper Sixth, was with her. Serena reflected she would not have liked to have had Alexandra in her house; there was something that spelt trouble about Alexandra Michaels, to her mind.
“I, er we, are sorry to bother you, Miss Montgomery, but the headmistress thought possibly you might be able to help us out of a little hole, if you feel like it of course. It is entirely up to you.” Miss Rodgers was yattering on.
“I was about to have a cup of tea,” Serena interrupted her briskly. “But by all means sit down and have one with me. I am sure, whatever the problem is, then it will seem easier after a cup of tea.”
So Serena produced two more cups and they sat and drank tea and had a very forced conversation about Louis Armstrong, at Serena’s instigation, or at any rate Miss Rodgers and Miss Montgomery did, for Alexandra hung her head and looked distinctly embarrassed.
“Well, what is it, Miss Rodgers?” Serena enquired, seeing the tea pot was now empty and she would have to deal with whatever nonsense it was. “I hope it is not to do with my girls again.”
“Oh no, your girls have been almost well-behaved, though I have had trouble with some other ones; but Miss Hedges is dealing with that, hopefully.”
‘She is never going to make a teacher,’ Serena thought to herself.
“Have you ever been in love, Miss Montgomery?” Miss Rodgers was saying.
“Yes, I know the feeling.” Serena said dryly, thinking this must be about a love child; she had narrowly escaped having one the first couple of times that she had ended up in bed with Jack, but after that they had been much more careful, perhaps too careful.
Presumably, Alexandra had done something ridiculous. But why was her advice being required? Unless it was Miss Rodgers who was with child, but then why was Alexandra here?
“This, of course, is in strict confidence, Miss Montgomery.” Miss Rodgers was saying. “But Miss Harmon thought you might be sympathetic.”
“Well certainly I will keep it to myself, as long as it is not anything illegal, of course.” Serena said, reflecting she had had no real friend in this place to give away whatever dark secret this was, and she certainly was not going to be a party to an abortion.
“The truth is,” Miss Rodgers said very awkwardly. “That Miss Harmon is unbelievably angry with me, and indeed Alexandra. I am afraid that she regards me as more or less her property, almost as if she is my husband, you know. I let her bring me to this school, and we did swear eternal love, in many ways rather against my own judgement. I expect you know I have been given a room in the headmistress’s house.”
“Yes, I am vaguely aware of that.” Serena replied, wondering where on earth this was going; she had never come across anything quite like this.
“Anyway Alex and I found that we have a certain mutual feeling, and Miss Harmon caught us developing it in my room.”
“Oh Lizzy, dear, why not just say we were making love in bed,” said Alexandra briskly; this honesty raised her considerably in Serena’s eyes.
“Yes, we were getting very worked up together. Anyway, she came through the door in the middle of it and she was livid. Strangely, she did not throw me out, so I suppose that she has a real pash on me too, which I was not quite sure about before. But, she chooses to regard Alex as the culprit. She insists she must have seduced me.”
“Which is ridiculous,” said Alexandra. “We both wanted to do it. And anyway, it was not that serious; she did not really have anything to be jealous about.”
“Anyway, she does not want to admit to immoral behaviour in her school, if you please, which, since she does it all the time with me, is rich. And that means she is not inclined to throw Alex out. Especially, of course, as Alex is very likely to get in for Classics, which is why I was coaching her.” Miss Rodgers stated rather stutteringly.
“So what does she want to do?” Serena asked, feeling baffled.
“Alex said, very sensibly I thought, couldn’t she just have the cane? And then, my dear Miss H said she couldn’t possibly do that. It would more than likely come out and it would link her to the event, as it were. Then it was suggested I could cane her. But that was ridiculous. I could not possibly hurt Alex like that; and even if I had felt up to doing it, I have never caned anyone, or been caned, for that matter, so I would not have the faintest idea what I was doing. Such things just did not happen in my school or my family.”
“And then Miss Harmon thought of you, Miss Montgomery,” Alexandra cut in. “She said you were the best person in the school with the slipper, and never afraid to use it, unlike some of the other house mistresses, and she has a feeling you almost certainly own a cane, even though you strictly should not do.”
“I have got a cane, but how could she possibly know that when I have never used it?” Serena exclaimed, feeling slightly startled, not that she doubted her ability to do it, though it seemed extremely odd.
Could Miss Harmon possibly know that she had let Jack whip her just enough to get her going. They had always used to take it up into the beech wood together with the rug they made love on, but that was before she came to this dismal nunnery. Perhaps the head suspected her of improper punishments, but in fact she had never even thought about using it on a pupil here; a well applied slipper was quite adequate in her experience, and her only real experience of the cane had been very unpleasant; Jack had gone more than slightly berserk that last time with her and it had been a horrible experience. She had never forgotten the stinging agony and it had been effectively the end of their relationship.
“I am afraid she always likes to look into the mistress’s rooms; she has got spare keys to all of them. I am afraid she thinks it is funny.” Miss Rodgers was saying.
“That woman is such a cow. You know, you ought to get away from her, Kitty, regardless of me.” Alexandra was saying very forthrightly. “Anyway, what about it, Miss Montgomery? Are you going to whack me, or not?”
“I suppose I will do it, but it is the oddest thing I have ever been asked to do in my life.” Serena replied, feeling very strange. The cane in question had last been used by Jack on her own bottom. The last time had been a real punishment, with real welts, which she had never quite forgiven.
Alexandra surprised Serena by giving her a huge hug and a kiss, then disentangled herself and said, “Do I take any clothes off, Miss Montgomery?”
“Yes, I suppose so,” Serena said, realizing she had never punished a senior girl before. “Vest and knickers would probably be simplest, if you don’t mind, Alexandra.”
Serena vanished into the small bedroom of her flatlet and fumbled at the back of the wardrobe for the cane, which she knew was somewhere there. Eventually, after much rummaging, she found it, fallen flat behind her old shoes. She extricated it, removed a couple of cobwebs and practiced swishing it, but it felt so odd. It brought all the times with Jack back with a rush, and she realized there had been a lot of good ones as well as that dreadful ending. She would have to stand rather differently to what had become second nature with the slipper, she concluded, turning her mind to more practical matters. With a more than slightly beating heart, she walked back into the other room, which doubled as sitting room, study and miniature kitchen.
Alexandra was standing in bare feet in just a khaki cotton vest and solid, not very elegant, blue serge knickers. Serena reflected with a slight grin that her instructions had been taken rather literally. She would not have minded if the girl’s black stockings had stayed on. Serena picked up the stool she kept in the corner for these occasions and put it more or less in the middle of the room.
“Walk over to the stool and bend over, and put your hands on it,” she said briskly.
The girl did as she was told, though Serena thought she could hear a slight gasp. She took careful aim and let the cane swish. It caught the lower part of the bottom and produced a yelp. Serena kept the strokes within a narrow area at the lower part of that rather nice behind, just as Jack had done that awful last time. The bottom swayed and the legs kept moving up and down. The tears flowed plentifully and there was a yelp each time the cane hit. And towards the end of the six strokes, Alexandra had ceased to yelp and was making some very odd noises. Serena found it oddly gratifying, but she would have been hard put to say why.
Then Alexandra dressed herself with some help from what had been, or quite possibly was still, her lover, albeit presumably a temporary lover. Serena, wishing to seem civilised, made them all another cup of tea, which they drank quite slowly. Alexandra had hers standing up and still looking rather tearful, but she seemed grateful for it, nonetheless. Then Alexandra and Miss Rodgers departed.
For quite a long time, Serena was convinced there would be some dreadful comeback, and that she should never have thrashed Alexandra. But strangely nothing happened. Nothing, that is, except she wrote a postcard to Jack, which said simply, ‘The snake has come out of its cupboard and wants to play again.’ After four years she did not really expect a reply, but strangely one came; and not long after that their affair began again almost as if it had never ended. And not very long after that they got married and the cane took up its abode in the wardrobe in their bedroom.
But it was several years later before she summoned up the strength to tell Jack the story of Alexandra’s caning.
He had the sense to sit and listen carefully, for he knew her well enough to know that it was something very important to her.
“Well?” She said. “Are you going to sit there and say nothing?”
“I think,” he said very slowly. “Those two very naughty young women were having you on. I think the headmistress, Miss Harmon or whatever she was called, knew nothing about it, and Alexandra wanted to find out what a real caning felt like. After all, I knew a young woman like that once. Do you remember?”
“Yes, I met her only the other day.” She replied with a giggle. “But I was there, and though it is a good theory I don’t believe you. Anyway, for some reason it brought the snake out of its cupboard again, which I thought was never going to happen.”
“For which we should be eternally grateful,” her husband replied. “Second chances like that are rare.”
© Jane Fairweather 2020 To view Jane’s Amazon Author Page and to see her published ebooks, click here