Four girls are in line for a caning but the headmaster has a sneaky plan
By Kenny Walters
“Please come through, girls.” Miss Wainbridge, senior Mathematics Mistress and self-appointed deputy headmistress of the girls sixth form, held the door open while the four attractive young ladies filed through. Each girl wore black trousers and a white blouse, denoting them to be members of the sixth form, and each wore a small broach showing them also to hold some even more senior status. “Please be seated.”
“Thank you, miss.” Four low, quiet voices answered more or less in unison as each girl sat at one of the four chairs lined up along one side of the long library table.
Miss Wainbridge walked round to the opposite side of the table where just two chairs were placed, one vacant one for herself and the other already occupied by the corpulent figure of James Battersby, the headmaster.
“I’m sure you all know why you’ve been asked to this meeting.” James Battersby started addressing the four girls even while Miss Wainbridge was still in the process of sitting down. The line of vacant faces suggesting that not one girl had the faintest idea made no impression on the headmaster.
“This was simply a situation that should not have been allowed to happen, girls.” He continued. “We must make sure such a thing cannot happen again, and restore confidence in those that matter that we have the ability to ensure it does not happen again.”
Rebecca Sanderson glanced sideways at her neighbour, Harriet Harmer. The almost imperceptible shoulder movement was sufficient to ask, as was the equally faint shake of Harriet’s long chestnut brown hair to answer. Neither the head girl nor her senior prefect had a clue about what the headmaster was talking about.
“Obviously, as you’re aware, it brings into question the whole reputation of the school as a whole.” Mr Battersby droned on, while Jemima Prenderghast stifled a giggle as she mentally substituted the word ‘hole’ for the headmaster’s intended spelling of ‘whole’.
“I do feel they have a point. It should not be up to members of the public to police the out of hours curriculae of our girls. Indeed they have a right to expect we should have the means and the wherewithal to do that ourselves.”
As the headmaster continued, Rebecca Sanderson nodded to Harriet who dutifully nudged Victoria Smith in the ribs in such a way as to silently ask the head girl to kindly interrupt the headmaster and stop him making even more of a fool of himself. A toss of Victoria’s long caramel brown hair answered succinctly: “Not on your life!” Thankfully, Miss Wainbridge had spotted the problem.
“Kindly desist from your assault on Victoria’s ribs, Harriet. We may yet need her for the school netball team on Saturday. Things really are that desperate.” The so-called deputy headmistress screwed her wizened face into what passed for a smile in appreciation of her own humour and turned to the headmaster. “I think, Mr Battersby, you need to explain a little more fully, for the benefit of these four at least.”
“Eh? What? Oh, yes. It’s about that problem you had a couple of weekends ago. When those four girls took themselves off to the village.”
“That was two weeks ago, headmaster.” Victoria Smith exclaimed. “You dealt with them yourself.”
“That is not at issue, Victoria. The point is, you were the four senior girls present who had the responsibility of making sure they didn’t go wandering off. Goodness knows what harm could have come to them.”
“What harm!” Harriet Harmer exclaimed. “Ye Gods! They’re all eighteen. Knowing them, I should say it’s the village that needs protecting, rather than worrying about what harm they might come to in broad daylight in a quiet little country village. ”
“And anyway, all they needed to do was come to us and ask for permission to go down to the village.” Rebecca Sanderson, a prefect with long straight dark hair, supported her friend. “So long as they provided a good enough reason, there’s no way we would have refused them.”
“Ah!” Mr Battersby waved his finger at no-one in particular. The four girls looked back at their headmaster wondering what exactly had caused this ostensible glee. “Ah! And why didn’t they come to you and ask for permission? Eh? Eh?”
Seeing the four all shrugging their shoulders, Mr Battersby continued. “I’ll tell you why. It was because they didn’t have a good reason did they? Eh? No, sir. They did not!”
“I’m sorry, headmaster.” Little blonde haired Jemima Prenderghast, another prefect, spoke up. “I’m afraid I don’t see the difference between four girls sneaking out without permission and four girls walking out the main gate having told a totally believable lie to falsely gain permission. Both are wrong and they have been punished.”
“Ah! The difference is, young lady, that at least you’d have known where they were supposed to be. As it was, you thought they were in school whereas in reality they were three miles away in the village.”
“Very well, headmaster.” Jemima concluded it was a moot point not worth arguing over.
“So, shall we step up patrols for next weekend, headmaster, maybe check on the girls every hour?” Victoria Smith thought the idea preposterous but wondered whether that might bring this tedious meeting to a close.
“If that is what you consider is necessary, Victoria, then that is what you must do.”
“Very well, headmaster.” Victoria made to stand up and leave, and the others rapidly followed suit.
“Just one moment, girls. I haven’t finished yet.” Mr Battersby bellowed.
Victoria sighed and slumped back down in her chair again, along with the other three. “Yes, headmaster?”
“I’m afraid we need a little more, Victoria. Members of the public, not to mention at least two of the school governors, are expecting us to provide something tangible that confirms we have taken the matter seriously.”
“Like what, headmaster?” Harriet Harmer asked.
“I’m afraid we need a caning.”
“What!” All four girls exclaimed in unison. “You cannot be serious!”
It took a few moments for the four senior girls to settle down again. When they had, Victoria spoke. “Headmaster, you have already caned the girls who broke the school rules – the girls who actually committed the offence. Surely you don’t expect us to accept canings as well!”
“Not you, plural. No, I don’t think that is necessary at all.”
“You’re going to cane me?” Victoria looked horrified. “That’s not fair! I may be head girl but that doesn’t mean I assume total responsibility for the entire school all on my own!”
“No, no, Victoria! You misunderstand me.” Mr Battersby gently waved his arms to calm things down.
“I should hope so!” Victoria retorted.
“No. What I mean is, I just need to cane one of you. I’m happy for you decide amongst yourselves just who that should be.”
The four girls were stunned into silence for some moments, hardly believing their ears. Before they had a chance to gather their thoughts and offer a considered response, Miss Wainbridge spoke up.
“I think this is a very fair proposition that Mr Battersby is putting to you, girls” The so-called deputy headmistress screwed her face up into another of her expressions that passed for a smile. “It surely is better that just one of you is caned rather than all four. Isn’t it?”
The four girls now focused their attention on Miss Wainbridge. All were suddenly reluctant to speak, feeling that a wrong word could find them all having to face a second, far more painful, meeting with their headmaster.
“May I presume from your silence that you have all seen the wisdom of my decision, girls?” James Battersby enquired.
A rapid exchange of glances between the four together with the odd nod of a head or two was all the discussion they felt able to undertake at the present time.
“Put like that, we have no choice do we?” Victoria sullenly spoke for them all.
“Good. Please, all four of you report to my study at a quarter past four tomorrow afternoon at which time you may let me know the name of the, shall we say, less fortunate girl and I will deal with her then. It will be six strokes. You may leave.”
“Bloody hell! I do not believe that!” Harriet Harmer declared when safely out of earshot of the headmaster and Miss Wainbridge.
“Too right! Bloody cheek!” Jemima Prenderghast agreed.
“Shush! Let’s not broadcast this to the entire school.” Victoria Smith held a finger against her lips to emphasise the need for discretion. Not one girl in the whole school would fail to be fascinated by the thought of the head girl or one of the senior prefects getting a caning from the headmaster. “Let’s all go to my room.”
As head girl, Victoria gained the benefit of the largest of the rooms available for girls to board without sharing, coffee making facilities, a large desk, a sofa and two armchairs as well as an extremely comfortable bed.
“Anyone any ideas?” Harriet settled down in an armchair with a mug of hot coffee in her hand.
“That is just so typical of that devious old sod we call a headmaster.” Rebecca Sanderson sat on the sofa, her fingers toying with her long dark hair.
“Devious it might be, but it still leaves us with a bit of a predicament, doesn’t it?” Jemima Prenderghast took the other place on the sofa.
“Everyone got coffee?” Victoria Smith checked round before taking the second armchair. “So, what are we going to do?”
“You’re head girl, Vicky.” Jemima replied.
“So?” Victoria looked back, not sure quite how to take the remark.
“So, you take ultimate responsibility.”
“Harry was duty prefect.” Victoria countered. “Why shouldn’t she take the blame?”
“Hold on!” Harriet nearly choked on her coffee. “Surely the fairest way would be for us to simply draw lots.”
“I don’t like that idea at all.” Jemima said. “I’m the most junior prefect of you all and I wasn’t on duty. In fact, for most of the afternoon I was in the TV room watching the rugby match.”
“While you were waiting for the girls to bring you back your bottle of scotch, you mean!” Rebecca reminded the small blonde girl she wasn’t totally innocent of all knowledge of the affair.
“Oh, and of course you all hadn’t placed your own orders of fags and booze, had you?” Jemima retorted. “I think not!”
“Look, this is getting us nowhere.” Victoria interrupted. “None of us can claim to be totally innocent. I presume no-one is in favour of presenting ourselves to the headmaster and requesting that we each be given six strokes?” The head girl looked round briefly. “No, I thought not. So, we either go for establishing the greater degree of culpability or we draw lots. Are we agreed thus far?”
“Neither of those options seem particularly attractive actually.” Harriet responded.
“Do you have another alternative, Harry?”
Harriet shook her head.
“Okay, votes for drawing lots?” Victoria quickly looked round. Only Harriet had put her hand up. “I suppose I’d have to go for that too.” The head girl gently raised her own hand. “Just to check, those in favour of culpability?” Jemima and Rebecca both instantly raised their hands.
“You and Harry could draw lots, Vicky.” Jemima suggested. “Just the two of you.”
“No!” Harriet objected vocally.
“I can see there’s an element of fairness in that, actually Harry.” Victoria conceded.
“Well, I can’t!” Harriet snapped. “That gives us just a one in two chance of being caned. I don’t actually relish the prospect of being caned, you know. Even if he is an old duffer, Jimmy Battersby can still wield a cane quite effectively, thank you!”
“No, I have no wish to be caned either, Harry.” Victoria said, more calmly. “But you were the duty prefect and I am the head girl.”
“Sad but true.” Rebecca spoke.
“Actually, Harry, it could be argued that as the duty prefect you should be the one taking the caning anyway.” Jemima added.
“Oh, thank you!” Harry answered, and turned her head away.
“Come on, Harry. What do you say? Let’s just us two draw lots. I’ll take my chances with you.” Victoria gingerly put a hand on Harriet’s shoulder, not sure what reaction she would receive.
Harriet looked towards Victoria, an expression of fear etched on her face, and for a brief moment looked up at the head girl. “Okay.” She said, quietly.
“I’ll get a couple of pieces of paper and a book!” Jemima practically leapt off her chair, so relieved was she that she was now safe from the contest to see who would be caned the following afternoon. “Close your eyes and don’t look.”
Jemima found a piece of scrap paper and carefully tore into two equal halves. Pulling a book from the shelf, she opened it in the middle and laid each piece of paper onto the page before closing it again. After a little adjustment to ensure both pieces of paper were suitably spaced and each protruding equally from the book, she returned to the other girls.
“Who wants to choose?”
“Go on, Harry. You pick.” Victoria
“The one who picks the very short piece goes for the caning. The one who gets the long piece doesn’t. Okay?” Jemima looked at each of the two participants. Both agreed.
Harriet sat up straight and stared at each piece of paper for a long time before she moved her hand towards the book Jemima was holding out. Her hand hovered between the two pieces of paper for several more seconds before she suddenly snatched at the piece of paper that was furthest from her. It was a short tiny scrap of paper.
“Bad luck, Harry.” Rebecca said.
“Sorry, Harry. Victoria added, unable to hide the relief expressed on her face.
“Never mind. It will soon be over with.” Jemima took the scrap of paper from Harry and returned the book to the shelf, carefully disposing of the two pieces of paper by tearing them up and throwing them into the waste bin.
Victoria placed a consoling arm around Harriet. “More coffee, I think. Would you mind, Becky?”
The following day, all four girls were able to absent themselves from their lessons a little earlier than usual, citing various excuses to their teachers. Rebecca and Jemima were both in the same English Literature class, so they walked along the corridor together, and met up with Victoria on the staircase.
“Have you seen Harry?” Victoria asked.
Both girls shook their heads.
“I’d guess she’s already in her room.” Rebecca suggested.
They tapped on Harriet’s door and opened it without being invited. They found Harriet sitting on her bed in a dressing gown, brushing her long chestnut brown hair quite vigorously. “What time is it?” Harriet asked.
Jemima looked at her watch. “It’s a quarter to four.”
“Right, well I suppose I’d better get ready.” Harriet placed her hairbrush on the small cabinet next to her bed and stood up. She briskly removed the white dressing gown and threw it onto her bed, leaving herself completely naked. Pushing between the others, she went to a tall chest of drawers and began searching the contents of the second drawer down.
“That’s nice.” Jemima commented, as Harriet pulled out a black lacy bra and put it on.
Further rummaging in the fourth drawer down produced a green and yellow hockey shirt which Harriet pulled on over her head. A brief foray in the third drawer then produced brief white knickers.
“You’re not going to risk knickers under your shorts, are you?” Rebecca asked.
“I can’t find my PE shorts. Matron must have put them in the laundry.” Harriet replied. “It’ll have to be the games skirt.”
“That should give old Jimmy a thrill!” Jemima said with a large grin on her face. A cold look from Harriet soon caused the smile to evaporate.
“Or you could wear your track-suit, Harry.” Victoria suggested.
“It might look a little less obvious while we’re walking to his study too.” Rebecca added.
“Good thinking!” Harriet bent down to thread the knickers over her bare feet, then pulled them up her shapely legs until they could be snapped into place around her hips and bottom.
“Bare bum showing!” Jemima cautioned, looking down at the portions of white thigh and lower bottom flesh left uncovered by the brief underwear.
“It’ll have to show.” Harriet replied abruptly. “They’re the best I’ve got.”
“What about your blue French Knickers, Harry?” Rebecca asked.
“Too thin.” Harriet answered. “Anyway they’re a bit delicate. The cane might damage them.”
“You sound like an expert, Harry.” Victoria commented. “You haven’t had the cane before, have you?”
“No, but I witnessed Angela Harding getting it a few months ago.” Replied Harriet.
White socks, white gym shoes and black track-suit top and tight-fitting bottoms completed Harriet’s ensemble.
“Grief! It’s five past already!” Jemima exclaimed. “We’d better get going. Is everyone ready?”
As they walked along the corridor, Harriet’s black track-suit looked a little strange in comparison to the other girls’ maroon skirts and white blouses.
“Any last requests?” Jemima said cheerfully, as they approached the headmaster’ study.
“Oh, do shut up, Jem. This is bad enough as it is!” Harriet retorted.
Victoria tapped on the door.
Victoria opened the door and stood back for the others to enter before her. She gave Harriet a gentle pat on the seat of her track-suit trousers as she passed. “Good luck!” She whispered.
Moments later, all four girls stood in a line in front of the headmaster’s desk behind which sat the corpulent figure of James Battersby and, almost inevitably, Miss Wainbridge.
“Nicely on time.” The headmaster commented. “Thank you for that. I presume from your attire that you have been selected, Harriet. Is that correct?”
“Yes, sir.” Harriet answered.
“Do you have shorts on under your track-suit, girl?”
“No sir, knickers.”
Mr Battersby coughed. “Oh well, don’t suppose it will make much difference. Come and stand at this end of the desk, Harriet.” He beckoned to the right hand side of his large desk.
“My PE shorts are in the laundry, sir.” Harriet felt it necessary to explain that wearing brief knickers when appearing before her headmaster for the cane was most certainly not her preferred choice and merely due to the laundry arrangements of the school.
As Harriet left the line of senior girls to take her appointed place at the end of the headmaster’s desk, so Mr Battersby got up and went to a cupboard over in the further corner of the study. Harriet stood facing away from the desk and watched as the headmaster opened the cupboard door, searched the contents for some moments and then pulled out a four foot length of pale yellow cane complete with crook handle. Harriet took a deep breath.
“Trousers down, girl.” Mr Battersby commanded as he came back towards the desk.
Harriet glanced across at her three friends as she inserted her thumbs into the elastic waistband of the black track-suit and began slowly easing the soft material down over her hips. They in turn were looking back at her, but whereas Harriet was looking up into their faces, their eyes were focused lower down.
Once the track-suit trousers had been pushed down to around Harriet’s knees, they slipped further down of their own accord and finished in a heap around her ankles.
“Tut tut tut!”
Harriet heard the headmaster making clicking noises with his tongue as he stood just behind her and looked round to see what the problem was.
Harriet was baffled.
“Your rugby shirt, Harry.” Jemima spoke in a hushed tone, although no-one could see why that was necessary.
Harriet frowned, and looked across at Jemima for another clue.
“I think what your friend is trying to tell you, Harriet.” Miss Wainbridge spoke. “Your rugby shirt is of sufficient length that it would nearly serve as a skirt. Pull it up, dear, so we can all see your knickers!”
Harriet suddenly felt quite warm. She looked down at herself and saw that, indeed, the shirt that she wore under her track-suit top came down to almost mid-thigh. Not what was wanted in these present circumstances.
“Sorry, I forgot.” Harriet commented as she slowly tucked the offending rugby shirt up and stuffed it under her track-suit top. She felt irritated, far more than any degree of humiliation or embarrassment, at having to stand there in her brief white knickers being scrutinised by every other person in the room.
Harriet obeyed the headmaster’s instruction without hesitation. Firstly, she was expecting it and anyway at least it meant she could get on with accepting the painful ordeal and get it over with. The desk felt especially cold against the part of her tummy not covered by her knickers, and uncomfortably cool even where the thin material did offer some defence. Everyone remained silent while she fidgeted around making sure she was secure and as comfortable as she was ever likely to be in this situation, and also to ensure her bottom was well presented to give an easy target to the application of the cane. Harriet knew from listening to others relating their experiences that it would be far more painful if the cane struck her at the tops of her thighs rather than fair and square on her bottom.
Finally, Harriet lay still and a strange atmosphere of expectation suddenly filled the room. She waited, and waited.
Harriet jerked violently as the cane whipped across the seat of her pants and a scorching pain spread across the entire centre of her backside. The intense smarting caught her by surprise. She knew it would sting and smart, but the concentration was still far more than she had anticipated. She struggled mentally to resist throwing her hands back to massage her sore bottom and to lay still and allow it all to happen again.
The cane swiped across the seat of Harriet’s brief white knickers again and sent a fresh bout of searing agony across her bottom, a little lower this time. Annoyingly, for Harriet had vowed to herself she would not allow it to happen, her eyes became quite watery and she back the moisture to try and prevent any tears from trickling down her face. She turned her head to look at her three friends, but they were too busy looking at her bottom to meet her eyes and perhaps offer her some discreet sign of sympathy or comradeship.
Another stinging stroke lashed across Harriet’s bottom, catching her low down and lifting her a little as it cut into the soft mounds of her lower buttocks. Several frantic sniff were needed now to prevent the tears from flowing. Harriet took a deep breath and moved back along the desk a fraction, tucking her knees hard up against the side of the desk and, she hoped, making it less likely the next stroke would go even lower.
James Battersby saw the girl bending across his desk slide herself back slightly and knew exactly what she was up to. He’d been headmaster at this school for coming up thirty years and long lost count of the number of girls that had bent over the end of that desk to have their bottoms warmed by one of his canes or, rarely, a size 12 plimsoll. He focused on Harriet’s shapely bottom, the brief white knickers leaving the lower parts and just the very tops of her buttocks exposed. The cane felt good in his hand, pliant and powerful, and he drew it back slowly and deliberately before sending it flying down to smack near the top of the white cotton material. It skidded off, just catching the girl on the bare part of her lower back before the swing petered out in mid air.
“Oooooohh!!” Harriet screwed her eyes up as the searing pain punished her yet again. Perhaps she’d over done the moving back, for that stroke caught her high and scorched a wider area as it slid up her bottom. The pain was a little less intense, though, so perhaps the move was not such a bad idea after all.
Harriet looked to her left, to where Miss Wainbridge sat. Oh, how Harriet disliked that woman! A strictness that was maintained even for the senior sixth form girls, unlike most of the teaching staff, and an adherence to even the most minor of rules, also never relaxed for the seniors, together with a drab and boring appearance meant Miss Wainbridge had always been a teacher to avoid as much as possible. True to form, Miss Wainbridge’s attention was focused on Harriet’s bottom and the punishment it was receiving.
“Eeeeooouucchh!!” The cane whipped across the seat of Harriet’s pants yet again, causing yet another flood of pain to scorch her now very sore bottom. Several tears did now trickle their way down her face and no amount of sniffing could stop them. The desire to throw back her hands and rub her poor aching bottom was becoming very hard to resist even though Harriet was sure such an act would not be appreciated. Indeed it was mainly the fear it might be regarded as a breach of discipline and thus earn Harriet yet another stroke or two that she did not succumb to temptation.
Curiously, Harriet became aware of people breathing and heard minor rustles of clothing as they moved slightly. What was happening? Harriet looked again at Miss Wainbridge, but she was still looking at Harriet’s bottom. Turning her head the opposite way, Harriet saw Jemima and Rebecca still looking down at her bottom. Victoria, though, caught her eye. The head girl raised an eyebrow in a way that seemed to be ask how Harriet was feeling, but the pain was still enough to cope with without engaging in some secretive communication.
“Thank you, Harriet. You may rise.”
James Battersby reluctantly released the girl from her position across the end of his desk. Reluctantly, for he quite enjoyed the sight of a thinly clad female bottom that had just received a stout caning, and Harriet’s firm round bottom was one of the shapelier ones it had been his pleasure to punish.
Harriet’s immediate reaction was one of surprise for she hadn’t been counting and hadn’t realised she had taken the six strokes to which she had been sentenced. She pushed herself up a little from the surface of the desk and looked round. Sure enough, Mr Battersby was going back to the corner cupboard to put the cane away until his next victim had the misfortune to find herself taking Harriet’s place.
“Ooooohh!!” Harriet slowly got to her feet and rubbed her sore bottom through the seat of her thin white knickers. The surface of both buttocks felt very sore indeed and she could feel the weals left as a result of the cane striking her with such force. She reached down and began pulling up her black track-suit trousers, then paused and looked around doubtfully.
“Yes, you may get dressed.” Miss Wainwright spoke, the headmaster still preoccupied in storing the cane away securely. “Rejoin your friends, Harriet.” Harriet felt almost grateful that she could now leave her lonely position at the end of the desk and rejoin the short line of senior girls. Jemima and Rebecca looked a little guiltily at her as she passed them; only Victoria gave a faint comforting smile.
Moments later, Mr Battersby retook his seat behind the desk.
“I hope that will be a lesson to you all, not just the unfortunate girl who had to be punished.” The headmaster looked them all firmly in the eye as he spoke. “Be very certain that not one of you would be exempt from a similar punishment should I have occasion to reprimand any of you again. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.” All four girls murmured quietly.
“Very well. You are dismissed.”
“You okay?” Victoria asked quietly as soon as they were out in the corridor with the headmaster’s study door firmly closed behind them.
“I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘okay’, actually.” Harriet answered, gently massaging her bottom as they walked.
“I thought you took it very well.” Jemima commented.
“Coffee and biscuits at mine?” Victoria offered.
Back at Victoria’s room, they soon had the kettle on and the biscuit tin opened.
“I’m glad that’s all over.” Jemima said, ignoring Harriet’s subsequent glare as she nibbled on a custard cream.
“Yes, not pleasant.” Rebecca agreed.
“Actually, I think we all owe Harry a huge vote of thanks.” Victoria started handing the coffee round.
“Thanks.” Harriet said as she took the mug of coffee that Victoria was offering her.
“No, really.” Jemima peered into the biscuit tin, looking for another custard cream. “Vicky’s right, we should all be very grateful to you.”
“I was thanking Vicky for the coffee actually!” Harriet snapped. “And yes, you should be grateful, bloody grateful!”
“I think old Jimmy appreciated the little white knickers, don’t you.” Rebecca spoke, and was next in turn for one of Harriet’s glares.
“Yes, that was a bit unfortunate, wasn’t it?” Victoria sat down on the sofa next to Harriet. “Matron taking your PE shorts to the laundry, I mean. Just when you needed them the most.”
“Trust Matron!” Rebecca commented.
“Yes, trust Matron!” Jemima agreed, stifling a giggle.
“Jemima?” Victoria looked at Jemima suspiciously.
“Yes?” Jemima was clearly struggling to keep a straight face. “What?”
“Come on, Jem. What do you know about Harry’s PE shorts?”
“Nothing!” Much giggling accompanied the reply.
Harriet looked at Victoria, clearly shocked and angry.
“What do you know about this, Becky?” Victoria turned to the other girl.
“Don’t look at me!” Rebecca answered. “I’m not involved.”
Victoria remained suspicious, but turned back to Harriet. “What do you want to do, Harry?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“Let’s spank her!”
“Noooooo!!” Jemima replied as the other three all leapt on her.