Let's begin with what went before, then lead up to the current situation, and what is going to happen next . . . .
"As you requested, sir, your cane. Not mine, but yours. I, of course, don't deserve this punishment. All I was doing was demonstrating, to the younger pupils, the dangers of smoking. I was doing a service for the school, I thought you would realise that when you happened to walk round the corner."
"Thank you, Miss Johnson, as a result of your explanation, you may replace it on my desk. I agree wholeheartedly with you that all the other girls need to know exactly how harmful smoking can be for their health, both long and short term. I will instead have a short lecture on the harmful effects given tomorrow morning at assembly. Matron has just returned from a refresher course on the dangers of tobacco, drugs and alcohol. "I was planning for her to lecture each year separately during community studies, however as you are so keen to start immediately she can give the lecture on the long term harm of smoking to the whole school tomorrow."
Sandra gasped in surprise at her headmaster's response; surely the old fool hadn't actually believed her, and she was going to avoid an excruatingly painful beating from his cane. She tried not to smile as she returned it to the row of canes hanging inside the tall cupboard. . . . . . ?
If she thought that the smile hadn't been noticed, she was very much mistaken. Lucy Johnson's misdemeanours were of encyclopaedic proportions, she was the bane of the Headmaster's life and almost a celebrity in the eyes of the younger pupils. He had often wondered if she considered this 'contest' a game, with her as undisputed winner.
It was time for an 'Olympic Event' and a plan began to form in the Head's mind, enough to bring a smile to his face.
The lectures began with a change in time and content......
The lecture the following day was going to be a most enjoyable affair. Lucy Johnson had walked in to a trap, to give a lecture on the dangers of smoking to the whole school.
Sitting just behind the lecturn the Head Master watched as Miss Johnson stood with her back to him and began speaking about the dangers of smoking. Listening as she stumbled over her words, she so obviously had not researched herself. His foot tapped slowly .. to the rhythm of the cane swishing through the air, the sound of the cane - swish - whap.
She finally finished her stumbling confused oration. "My office Miss Johnson. Wait outside until I get there." A veiled threat in the last few words...
"Wait for me outside my office with your hands on your head" the head told her. "I will deal with you in good time. Meanwhile i have to teach one of your fellow sinners a HARD lesson. Like you she thought that she could disobey the rule against smoking. Listen careful. What happens to her is what will soon happen to you. And I can assure you that whatever sounds you hear through my door will be greatly amplified when it is your turn to pay penance"
Lucy waited nervously clutching her bottom outside the Head's office wondering what he would do to her. The door opened and the Head summoned another young lady who was waiting in line ahead of her. Through the open door Lucy could see a padded stool high enough for someone to bend over and still be able to grasp the foot rail on the opposite side.
For some time after the door closed behind the other lady there was silence. Then through the door, whose thickness muffled any but the loudest sounds, came the unmistakable sound of a cane swishing through the air, followed by a sharp cry and drawn out moan. These noises were repeated at regular, slow intervals becoming louder and louder. Lucy listened in trepidation knowing that soon she would be the person bending over that stool inside and making those sounds. As she heard each stroke fall, in her imagination she felt it cut across her bottom. In a way it was worse anticipating what was about to happen to her than actually suffering the punishment...
The cries of pain inside were soon replaced by a loud, uncontrollable, sobbing, and, eventually, the door creaked open, and a very forlorn, and tearful specimen emerged, holding her bottom, and still sobbing, in fits of anguish.
She was able to splutter, "The headmaster will see you now..." before once more breaking down, and stepping slowly, and awkwardly, making her way back to class, down the long corridor, the sound of her wailing gradually fading, as she disappeared finally, from view, around the corner leading to the stairs.
Lucy knew better than to enter the office, however, without first knocking. Tapping, nervously, on the door, she awaited a reply.
"Enter!" She opened the door a little wider, and presented herself.
"Shut the door, behind you, girl!"
"S....s..sorry Sir!" She closed the door.
"And stand here, in front of my desk!"
She obeyed, hands held together, in front of her, head down, she stood before the head.
"I was most disappointed, Miss Johnson, with your little talk, this morning. You were ill-prepared, and slovenly. Not someone, Miss Johnson, with whom this school, this great school, MY school, would like to have an association. I am considering your expulsion, but, I believe a lesson might still be learned. It is, however, a harsh lesson, very harsh, do you understand?"
"Y...y....yes Sir, I'm sorry, Sir! Please..." Tears were forming, in her eyes, and her voice, now, tremulous."
"So severe, Miss Johnson, I have summoned your mother and father, so that they might authorise it, if they see fit, the alternative, they must take you away, forthwith. They will be arriving at four, this afternoon. I will see you then, please, Miss Johnson, do not be late. That will be all, you may go now."
Trembling, Lucy left the office, barely able to control her movements, for she knew, there was to be only one outcome.
Not by any means a wealthy family, the Johnsons had invested much in her, she, or rather, her position, in the school, had created in her mother, a pride many in the neighbourhood rather resented. Although there by scholarship, her parents, quite unable to pay the fees, had scraped together, with sacrifice and economy typical of those accustomed to the austerities of wartime, sufficient to provide her with allowance enough to enable her to maintain her dignity among her vastly more wealthy peers, to visit the tea shop, to buy the dainty little cakes and toffees, and, unfortunately, now, it seemed, most unfortunately indeed, cigarettes. A dignity, for which she now feared.
To be expelled from the school, would be unthinkable, her mother's pride would turn to an almost unbearable, heartbroken shame; she would, simply, be unable to show her face, anywhere again, it would, probably, mean leaving her village, the sweet cottage, the... well Lucy knew, this could simply not be allowed to happen, she might as well just poison her parents.
Lucy was not, by any means, an unpleasant girl. Wayward, in an unfamiliar world, keen, perhaps, too keen, to impress. Tears began to stream from her eyes, she could not allow her mother and father, Mary, and Jack, from the little mining village, to be berated by the plummy, overbearing character who had so cruelly, in her view, called them, for a humiliation to which she was sure they would be subjected, and might, even, if so hurt, consent to her expulsion, rather than see another family member suffer at the hands of the man.
Turning, she entered the office, without knocking. With the bravado of one who knew, this time, she was behaving with decency and honour, befitting of the school, she said, without invitation, "Sir, it was very good of you to seek the consent of my mother and father, but, please, that will not be necessary."
"Well, Miss Johnson, it seems that your time here has not been entirely wasted!"
"I shall instruct Mrs Wilkins to inform your parents that a clerical error has been made, and their presence was not required. And to apologise for the inconvenience!"
"Thank you Sir" Lucy held her head up, a tear of pride, watered her hazel brown eye"
"Fortunately, Miss Johnson, it is not the practice of the school, to discuss matters on the telephone. This will remain, a private affair."
"Thank you Sir"
"I think, however, Miss Johnson, this is no time for tears. That time, I have decided, will be after lunch, in a special general assembly."
"The lower years will be excluded from it, Miss Johnson, do you understand? As you know, this school is not given to protecting its girls from distress..."
"No Sir." Lucy's heart sank, for her, despite her honour, there was to be no leniency.
"...unless that distress, is of the most serious kind."
"Yours, Miss Johnson, does not start after Lunch, I am afraid, I believe this matter to be so serious that it must start right away. I shall use the strap, there will be more serious retribution, of course, to follow. I suggest, Miss Johnson, you do not take lunch today."
"It is most demeaning, for a young lady, to soil herself, before her contemporaries!"
The old man was now in his element, revelling in the control he had over this pretty, feisty girl, he liked them that way, the braver they were at the beginning, the more broken, at the end...
"I think we shall use the Stoley... please remove your underware, Miss Johnson, and arrange yourself!"
The Stoley, so typical, she thought, probably a name used only by the school, so upper class, to use words nobody would recognise but themselves... the piece of furniture looked as if it had been fashioned, solely for the purpose for which it was about to be employed. Raising her skirt, she removed her green knickers completely, they could not merely be lowered, since the design of the Stoley prevented it, one had to straddle it. Made of leather, it gave a strange sensation, one which in happier times might have been rather pleasant. The thing had, even, a little wooden handrail, and, she noticed, for the first time, straps. A breeze, from the open window, reminded her of just how her modesty was compromised.
"We will be seeing more of the Stoley, this afternoon, Miss Johnson, when, I think, we will be needing those..."
The Stoley was made in such a way, she could see, that if the hands were tied by those straps, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to have any movement. While she was thinking this, the strap fell, loudly, and most unexpectedly painfully, across the backs of her thighs. Twice.
Six, further, devastating swats followed in quick succession. Lucy's scream was long and loud, already, after all she had been through, she was weak, any more, and she was finished. Tears flooded from her eyes, and there was worse to come. Always prepared, she had intended to visit the bathroom before the office, somehow, she had forgotten. The shock, had made the worst of all things happen. Lucy broke down. It had been so much, on her part, to confront the man so calmly, and now, all her inner strength was spent. As the headmaster's rhythm settled, she had nothing left, the leather, upon which she was perched, soaked, received a further little deluge every swat, and she screamed and sobbed, having abandoned any sense of control, her anguish amplified by every successive contact of the strap with her reddening skin. He was in no mood for mercy, and covered her cheeks and thighs liberally, deciding that when the girl stopped wetting herself, he would administer six more swats to each of her sit spots, then, leaving her in position, call for a cleaner, and go to lunch. Lucy, by now, was limp, crying like a baby, dreading the afternoon's ordeal, having, within her, nothing left with which to fight.
The morning cleaning monitor was Marceia Frank. Nothing, in particular, stood out about her, to the school, but neither was she regarded at all badly. She was average in her studies, of average sporting prowess, at least on the playing field, and rather well-behaved. Also a scholarship girl, there was, however, one thing at which Marceia did excel, to say the least. Marceia was beautiful. Not just pretty, that was part of it, she was, indeed, outstandingly so, but there was beauty in everything she did, everything she painted in art class, everything she spoke, in her kindness, she was, without a shadow of doubt, the most beautiful girl in the school.
A caretaker, once sacked, for impropriety, lived alone, friendless, in the village. Every Christmas, Marceia would make him a basket of her grandmother's special latkes and, together with doughnuts, and these, with a bottle of wine, she would carry to his house, to spend two hours befriending him, at this time, which must have been so lonely, she thought, when so many others around him were feasting. Her own feast, of course, by then finished.
A warm confidence filled her, wherever she went, but she, as all, was imperfect. She believed she needed something more, by way of discipline, something those around her seemed to be able to have, but for which she never seemed to be considered. She felt she could do better, perhaps, even be a doctor, but she needed to be pushed a little, and, being of strong will, she felt the push needed to be a firm one. She had one other weakness, one which sometimes kept her from sleeping. She was hopelessly, head-over-heals, in love, with a girl called Lucy Johnson.
Whenever she caught sight of Lucy, her heart would stop, she would melt, and tremble, her composure would abandon her, she would make silly, foolish remarks, hoping to attract the attention of this wondrous girl, her heroine, one year her senior. Whether it was simply the sight of her, or something more, Marceia didn't know, but, in her fantasies, she and Lucy would be as one, hand in hand, this being enough, to call heaven.
As she entered the headmaster's office, at first, all she could see and hear was a distraught figure, punished, on that device, she could not remember what it was called, because, somewhat to her chagrin, it seemed not to be part of her life. Immediately, though, Marceia felt that something, a rather special, unusual sensation, not unpleasant, at the thought of this young lady's ordeal. A sensation which made it necessary to steady her thoughts, before saying "Hello!"
A despairing, tearful face turned to her, and, momentarily startled, she saw that it was Lucy. But this was not an intimidating, overpowering Lucy, instead a girl, any girl, in need of Marceia's love. Taking her by one hand, she helped her up, and, saying nothing, hugged her as tightly as she could.
"Lucy, my poor Lucy, hold on tight, I have you."
Lucy broke down once more, into deep a sobbing which seemed to be the true crying of her soul.
"This afternoon, I cannot... whatever can I do?"
Marceia sat on the short couch, at the back of the office, and sitting Lucy, cradled in her arms, on her lap, slowly learned the story, of the cigarettes, and of what was to happen. Her grief for the poor Lucy was disturbed, again, by the same sensation as before. And, and as she held close to her, the girl of her dreams, into her mind, came the most wonderful of ideas.
"We are gathered here..." The assembly hall was full, not entirely, there being none of the younger ones, but the atmosphere was intense, and expectant. Lucy, far away, hope abandoned, allowed herself to be propelled toward the contraption, it being so, even if well-made by the finest of craftsmen.
"...in order to take a dim view!" Adopting the tone of some kind of television person, the headmaster could barely contain his joy. "Of the adoption of practices, which will, in time to come..."
Marceia fumed. She had sat and held Lucy, right until the last moment, but the poor angel was distracted beyond help. At length, the old man came to the matter at hand.
"... and so, you are here, to see how much this school values its reputation, not only ours, but yours! Take notice, it will not be a happy festival for the senses, but, at least, be sure not to make it one day, your own!" "Please secure Miss Johnson, Miss Wilkins.". The hall was silent.
And then a petite, pretty girl stood up, slowly climbed the steps onto the stage and stood before the assembly. She gathered herself, then spoke.
"I hail your hearing, fellow scholars of Saint Paul and Old Tristan!"
This, by tradition, was a call for undivided attention, it was the right of any member of the school to call it out, at any time, and, everything had to stop, until the caller was heard.
"I have something to say, something, I think will be of interest to you all."
"It has been my predisposition, in recent months, to behave, in a manner not deserving of the decency of your friendship and company."
"I have lied, deceived, cajoled and slandered."
"Those things, those troubles, which have affected many of you, the missing books, the forbidden objects found among your possessions, the urgent matters, making you late for class, the little slips of paper, found about your person, in examinations, these were my mischief."
"My intention, you see, was too see you in trouble. To witness events, such as that we are to see today."
"To watch you cry, scream, to see you sobbing with pain, and anguish."
"I befriended Lucy Johnson, with just such a thing in mind."
"The cigarettes were found, where they were found, because Marceia Frank arranged for them to be there!" "Lucy may have smoked, but truly only to demonstrate its ill, that was my idea. Lucy, does not smoke, and so I thought her coughing might be a convincing means of getting such a point across."
"However, this was my goal, I wished to see her punished, beaten to tears."
There were some puzzled faces in among the seated. Marceia was well and reliably known to have nothing in common with the person she was describing. It began to dawn, well, rather rapidly, on the girls, that Marceia was, as usual, on operations.
"Sir! They were my cigarettes in Lucy's bag, and there are many more in my room! Lucy, loyal and trustworthy, thinking she had a friend in me, did not, for one minute, consider saying anything."
"As indeed, I knew she would not, oh, how I prey upon honour and virtue."
As he wavered, Marceia made her sale.
"Your beautiful motor car, sir, you may remember, on the night of the conference dinner, was incapacitated by four simultaneous punctures."
"A misadventure, on my part, my intention, as usual, to create, for someone, punishment unjust."
"Miss Frank, am I to understand it that you are claiming responsibility, for these grave misdemeanours?"
"These, Sir, and more, but now, before you might consider my expulsion, I beg of you, to allow me to suffer the just consequences. Expulsion would be an easy thing, in so many ways, and unhelpful, in improving my awful condition!"
Being of somewhat more experience than the intelligent, but somewhat naive girl, the headmaster raised an eyebrow. It was plain to him, if nothing else, that she was of a mind to be disciplined, and, so, not a bad sort, in his book.
"Well Miss Frank, I have no means to demonstrate the veracity of your account, however, your confession would stand, I think, before a Judge and Jury, so I feel I have no alternative, but to accept it."
"Miss Johnson" he began "you have carried this affair with courage, decency and goodness."
"If you are..." his eye met that of the young lady before him "indeed innocent..."
"... then I apologise, most humbly and unreservedly. Do you wish to be excused, this assembly?"
At this point, she glanced at Marceia. The look, returned, was sufficient, almost to make her lose control of her senses, in it, such a passion, such a longing.
"Please, Lucy, please forgive me, I could not let this happen, because, you, for me have shown the true meaning of friendship. Lucy, I am sorry!"
Lucy was quite overcome by the sacrifice little Marci had made, and fortunately, was beginning to feel rather wonderful in her presence. She walked over, and hugged her new friend.
"Marci, of course I will be your friend!" they spoke in a whisper. "Then Lucy, would you please cane me?"
"Sir, we have spoken. Might I request a favour, being, to an extent, the victim of this unfortunate affair?"
"Go on, Miss Johnson..."
"I should most like to continue a friendship, with this somewhat distressed girl, sir, but on the condition, before the eyes of the school, I administer retribution."
"And what might that be, Miss Johnson?"
"Sir, I rather think it must be the Elder."
The silence in the hall was punctured by gasps. The Elder, never used while any of the girls present were in the school, had a mythical quality. A girl, once, was reputed to have left the school, as the result of a single stroke. It was three feet nine inches long, and made not of elder, but polished mahogony. A remarkably simple device, it was a half-inch in diameter, from one end to the other, and not in any way complicated by decoration or form. A simple piece of dowel, in fact, to the layman.
"Very well, Miss Johnson, you clearly do not mean your friend to brush aside this day, to laugh it of, disregard it as weakness, on your part."
Lucy, by now, knew she most certainly did not. "No, Sir, That would be to betray her trust in me as a true friend."
"Quite so, Miss Johnson, quite so. Might I suggest, you prepare her?"
"Come here, please, Marci!"
Lucy unclipped, unbuttoned and removed Marci's skirt. Placing her hands under the elastic of her knickers, she allowed these to fall to the floor.
"Step out, please Marci."
Marci stepped out of her clothes, and Lucy led her to the place of punishment. It was not, as announced by the old man, the Stoley, but a somewhat larger piece of furniture. It had, unequivocally, been designed for the purpose of administering severe punishment. A sort of wooden horse, it had little platforms, for both arms and legs, and upon these, straps, to restrain the occupant. Marci mounted, and, as Lucy was securing the straps around her pretty little wrists, all of her, seemingly, now, to Lucy, so very pretty, she whispered "Please, Lucy, be firm. Be very firm indeed!"
Lucy had no intention of being anything but firm. In the company of so many of experience, it was her intention to continue until advised otherwise. Because now she knew, perfectly well, what Marci needed.
Having secured, also, Marci's ankles, Lucy took the Elder, from Mrs Wilkins. Thinking, momentarily, how much Mrs Wilkins herself might benefit from its use, she turned her mind to rather more appealing things.
Massaging Marci's cheeks, for a minute, she said "This, Marci, is for betrayal, not of me, but of the whole School! We are here, in school, Marci, to learn, and we do so in lessons. Today's, lesson is about honesty, Marci, and it is to be a difficult one. I think, together, though, we will master it."
She was quite proud of that piece of improvised drivel. Marci, however, said nothing.
Tapping gently against Marci's cheeks, suddenly, Lucy unleashed ten rapid, stinging swats.
The reputation of the Elder was, it appeared, justified. Marci simply screamed. And screamed. Pausing, only to gasp for breath, between screams, she continued, simply, to scream.
But Lucy thought, perhaps, those screams were not quite as they should be, they seemed to have something of the theatre about them. She was wrong, Marci, never spanked before, was in agony.
Lucy, acting on her hunch, delivered another ten, equally rapid, but firmer, strokes.
Among those seated, some were sick. Marci's scream, that of one in agonising throes of death. Lucy, captain of the first XI, was less impressed. Following these rapid strokes, she settled into a slow rhythm, one stroke about every two seconds, but the timing unpredictable. She would make everything else unpredictable too. Tapping the sit spot, she would strike, instead, the thigh. A sportsgirl, she instinctively knew how to disorientate and demoralise. Before a further ten strokes had been delivered, Marci was no longer in control. Her loud, tearful sobbing was punctuated by screams, as the Elder met flesh, but Lucy now had her in the place she wanted her.
And the old man knew it. Such mastery, it had been some time, since he had seen an implement wielded so deftly. What was, once, to be an entertainment at the expense of his hockey captain, had now become a tour-de-force, his heart emptied of arrogance and pomp, in place, a warm, glowing pride in his girls, this one, in particular.
Just as the rhythm of the flogging may have, somehow, become familiar, Lucy paused. And then unleashed a relentless volley of twenty hard, fast, stinging strokes.
It is said, Marci's cry of plaintive helplessness could be heard in Shephearst, thirteen miles away. Several of the assembled girls fainted, Marci, decided Lucy, was finished. Lucy's final four swats, the ones she intended to leave strong marks, were the last. At this point, Marci seemed to have lost sensitivity, the screaming, seemingly involuntary and continuous. Slowly, this became sobbing, but showed no sign of calm.
"Sir, I believe I have finished. May I now take her, and comfort her? She is, I think, unlikely to forget."
"Certainly, Miss Johnson, I think we might say, a job well done!" The headmaster, it is sorry to report, had found himself in the predicament of Marceia Franks, he was, to his irritation, falling hopelessly for the Johnson girl.
Gently, Lucy untied Marci, and, without making her sit, lifted her into her arms. Marci clung to her, her sobbing calming somewhat. Carefully, Lucy carried her treasure to the edge of the stage, down the steps, and into the corridor. On the way, she met Matron, and requested some fresh pillows be delivered to her room, and spread about the bed. By the time they arrived, this had been done, and Lucy laid her little friend among them, face down, still sobbing, softly now. Lucy kissed her, lightly, and ran her hand through her hair. Taking a pot of almond hand cream, all the way from Italy, Lucy put a handful on each of the distraught girl's burning cheeks.
Lucy kissed her again, tickled her love's neck, ruffled her hair, and, in her ear, said, in her plain voice, "Marceia Frank, I love you. I am simply the happiest girl in the world!"
Still a little tearful, her companion was able to gasp a reply: "You are not, Lucy Johnson, because I am! Please hold me firmly!"
"I will, I promise, my sweetheart." replied Lucy, then, using both hands, slowly, she spread the cream. Before long, Marci was asleep.
Now, Lucy went to the gardens. There she picked buttercups, crimson and white marigolds, pansies and daisies. Returning to the room, she removed the stalks, and spread the heads of the flowers over her sleeping sweetheart. Then, also for her, it was time to sleep, on a cover, placed next to the narrow bed.
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