‘From: The Headmaster, Deepdene School, Larchfield Lane, Worsfield, Berkshire
To: Miss Beth Willis Sandown House
Dear Miss Willis,
I was deeply disappointed to learn from Mr. Taylor that you had been caught playing truant yesterday afternoon. Coming so soon after my address to the school assembly on the issue of attendance in classes, this strikes me as a most serious breach of school rules, and is one that I intend to treat with the utmost severity.
I should therefore like you to report to my study in Gladstone House this evening at 6.30 , where I shall punish you. You should note that I fully intend to apply the same treatment to you as I would to one of our male pupils in similar circumstances.
A. Jenkins, Headmaster’
Beth re-read the letter, pale. Her hands shook as she took it in. ‘The same treatment’.
But surely… There’d been a boy in the Fourth Year who’d be summonsed to the Headmaster the previous term, and he’d ended up being caned and suspended. But they couldn’t cane a girl… at least she had that comfort. That was one advantage to being a sixth-from girl at such a distinguished public school! But being suspended – what would her parents think? What an awful thought! The shame of it. Her father would skin her alive!
‘What’s that, Beth’ Two of the other Lower Sixth Form girls were at her side.
‘Oh – er – nothing. Just some stuff about the rehearsals for the school play.’
They looked concerned. ‘Are you feeling OK?’
‘Yeah – why?’
‘Just you look a bit pale, that’s all. I hope you’re not going to pass anything nasty on to us!’
Beth managed a smile. ‘I doubt it.’
‘Come on then. Let’s go to lunch’
At lunch, she was very quiet. To be suspended! And she’d only popped out of school briefly! And her friends wouldn’t leave her in peace.
As they walked out of the dining hall, her closest friend Sally came up to her, and put a caring arm round her shoulder. ‘Are you sure you’re OK, Beth – you’ve hardly eaten anything, and you’ve been really quiet all lunch’
She couldn’t keep it to herself any longer. ‘Sally, I’m really worried’
‘Hey, Beth, what about?’
‘Read this.’ Beth passed the letter across the table to her friend.
‘Phew. What did you do?’
‘I needed a couple of things – and I was stuck in all weekend with the match and then the play, and I just didn’t get a chance. So I nipped off yesterday in our Private Study period – and Taylor only caught me coming back into the school’
‘That’s awful. God. And now you’re up before the beak!’
‘What will he do – that line about the same treatment as the boys. That scares me. You remember Jones, last term?’
‘You mean – no, no, he couldn’t cane a girl. But, God – he might suspend you. What would your parents say?
‘Just don’t. My Dad would go ballistic.’
The bell rang for the star of the next lesson.
‘Look. Beth. Don’t worry. You had a good excuse – you’d been doing stuff for the school all weekend. He’ll just tell you off.’
‘Christ I hope so. Don’t tell anyone, will you?’
The afternoon seemed like an eternity. Double maths – so hard to concentrate. Prep for tomorrow – but she wouldn’t be here! What would her Dad say – he’d never forgive her. God, the shame of it. Everything had been so good for two terms – so good she hoped to be appointed as a school prefect in the summer. And now this.
6.10. Beth put her books in her locker, and headed to the dorm. . A quick spray of perfume – try to smell nice. Good girl. Clean girl. Don’t punish me… Out of the dorm and down the stairs. ‘Coming to watch TV before dinner, Beth?’ ‘No – sorry – got something to do.’
Out of the main door, and cross the yard. Out of the gate. My God, this was awful.
Up the drive and knock on the Secretary’s office.
‘Beth Willis – to see the Headmaster.’
‘Come in, pet. Take a seat. He’ll be with you in a minute.’
The waiting. 6.28 … 6.29 … still no sign.. 6.34. This was hell.
Suddenly the door opened. Taylor, in his gown. My God, he looks angry.
She walks forward, trembling.
‘Shut the door behind you and sit down.’
High-backed wooden chair facing a massive desk. She sat.
She told him about the weekend. I needed some things – it was the only time to go.
‘Did you listen in assembly yesterday?’
‘And what did I say?’
‘You said that truancy was really serious, sir, and that you were going to stamp it out.’
‘And I am.’
‘Well, then. Do you know what I do to boys in this school when I want to teach them a lesson, Beth?’
‘No Sir.’ Surely…
‘I cane them. Hard. So hard that they don’t tend to come back. Now I’ve never had to do that to a girl in the three years since we let girls join our school, but this time you really don’t leave me with any choice. So that’s what I’m going to do to you, Beth.’
‘No, sir. Please…’
Jenkins was walking over the a cupboard at the side of the room. He opened it, and took out a cane. She couldn’t believe it: she felt herself literally shaking with fear.
He flexed the cane. So long – four feet, at least.
‘Sir, you can’t do this.’
‘Don’t be insolent. If there’s one thing I hate more than rank disobedience, it’s someone who won’t take their punishment when it’s due to them.’
‘But you can’t.’
‘We’ll see about that. Stand up. Now take your knickers off and put them on the desk.’
No…. This was too terrible.
She reached up under her skirt, and – hands trembling – pulled down her pants. The Head moved round the desk towards her.
‘Put them on the desk. Now, then, I’m going to give you six strokes of the cane. And I intend to make them hurt. If you flinch, or cry out, the stroke won’t count. Understood?’
‘I want to you step behind that chair, lift your skirt up, and bend over the chair from behind.’
My God. This wasn’t happening,. Any moment now this man was going to be attacking her, hurting her.
‘No, Sir.’ She turned and moved towards the door, reaching for the handle.
He clutched her arm. ‘How dare you! I am the Headmaster of this school, and I have the right to tell you what to do. I make the decisions. You do what you’re told. And I’ll give you two more strokes for running away, so you’re now up to eight. So get your skirt up, and bend over before you incur any more.’
Tears welling in her pale blue eyes, Beth hitched up her skirt. She tried to cover herself.
‘Right up so it’s clear of your backside.’
She gathered it further up. She was totally exposed now – her pale strip of pubes on show for the Head. How humiliating.
‘Over the chair.’
Beth leant forward over the chair, placing her hands on the seat.
‘No, no, no. Stand up close to it, put your feet apart, next to the back legs, and reach for the bottom of the legs at the front.’
She leant forward – she could hardly reach.
‘Hands lower down. Feet touching the chair legs. Get tight, girl.’ She stretched. She felt so exposed – this man must be able to see everything.
He swished the cane. What a sound.
‘Eight strokes. No flinching. Would you please count them as we go.’
She heard him walk back to the door. My God – he was taking a run-up at her. She glanced back, and saw him left the cane above his head. Footsteps, the swish, then – whack. The stick landed so hard across her buttocks that it almost numbed her. And then the pain. Spreading out from where the cane had landed. low down – burning. Agony. And still it welled up. Her whole backside felt on fire.
‘One, Sir.’ With as much dignity as she could compose.
He walked back again. Paused. Any moment now.
‘Aaaahh.’ Unbelievable. Above the first, right across the centre of her buttocks. The fire almost took her breathe away.
‘No crying out. And COUNT’
Ten seconds – more? Beth felt totally powerless, subjugated. And again it whipped down on her, this time across the very join of her buttocks and her thighs. She could hardly bear it.
‘Three, Sir.’ She’d remembered.
And again. Harder still, slightly sooner than she’d expected. She shot up, clutching her behind, tears streaming down her face. He’d hit her just between the first two, reactivating those two lines as well as this new stripe.
‘That one doesn’t count. Get over.’
Shamed, humiliated, she bent back over the chair, reaching forward to tighten herself into position.
She reached back and lifted the skirt clear. The Head walked backwards.
The pause. How could she manage the rest?
The crack of the cane – right on top of the previous line. Again, she straightened, up, dancing round the room, trying to calm the burning weals.
‘You are not helping yourself, Beth. You are still on three strokes, and I fully intend to keep you here until you have had all eight. Now stop wasting my time, and get over the chair.’
The tears were running down her face as she leant forward again.
‘Hands down the chair legs. Thank you.’
She could feel Jenkins close behind her this time: the cane gently rested across her buttocks. He drew it back, high into the air, then cracked it down again. Beth clutched the chair with all her strength, desperate not to stand up as the red hot pain swelled across her behind.
Still he stood close behind. Another swish – and a stroke even harder than before. But still she stayed down.
‘Five, Sir.’ This was like nothing she’d ever imagined, even in her worst nightmares. And still three to go. The pain was so intense that it could hardly get any worse: she had to stay down. But this time he had walked back, and was running towards her.
‘Aaaahhh.’ She cried out. And through the tears added the total up to ‘Six.’
She looked up slightly, focusing ahead of her on the wooden edge of the Head’s solid desk. Concentrate, Beth. Ignore the pain. But as the next stroke cracked down on her buttocks, she couldn’t help herself. Up she shot, clutching her behind, desperately trying to ease the pain. Her behind hardly felt like her own any more, the weals joining together to make it feel hard, swollen, twice as large. Feeling Jenkins’ stare, she gingerly resumed her position.
‘Still six, Sir.’
And then another low one – right across the join between the top of her thighs and the bottom of her buttocks. She held on, desperately, the tears now flowing freely.
Jenkins was speaking to her. ‘One left, Miss Willis. Assuming you can take the stroke, this will complete your chastisement. And I sincerely hope never to see you in here again for a repeat performance.’
‘No, Sir, you won’t.’
‘Good.’ He turned and walked back. At the door, he paused, waiting. And still he waited. She yearned for him to get it over, wanting him to deliver that final stroke. And she shut her eyes.
And a few seconds later, it was over. The final stroke had been unbearable – she could hardly believe that someone coould cause her so much pain. But she had stayed down.
And now she was pulling her knickers back up, over her bruised and throbbing buttocks. And now he was lecturing her again. She nodded, trying to listen – but all she could hear were odd words – “naughty’, “serious’, “hope you’re sorry’.
And then she was walking out of the door, trying hard to stand up straight, look dignified, trying not to clutch her fiery bottom.
And then she was in her room, face down on the duvet, sobbing, her hands trying to no avail to soothe the pain.
And she couldn’t help thinking to herself – this caning: so barbaric, so cruel. But one thing had changed – she was never going to play truant again. And from the way her bottom felt there was another: she was never, ever going to be able to sit down again in comfort.