Part 1: A school and an ambition are revived.
This is a story of the caning of a schoolgirl, Priscilla X or, rather, of Priscilla's first caning and of the caning of her friend, Anna Y, who had been caned at least three times before. It is, in many ways, a very ordinary story and one might ask what purpose is served by its telling. Tens of thousands of schoolgirls have been caned in the not so distant past. Most of them, having committed some infraction of school rules, were summoned to the study of the headmistress or headmaster, where they ordered to bend over, usually to pull down their knickers and raise their skirt. The study then echoed to the eternal swish-thwack of the cane as authority administered some version of the classic six-of-the-best across the proffered bottom. Red welts grew vivid across the erstwhile unblemished cheeks and the painful consequences of mischief were transmitted to the miscreant's brain via a burning bottom. The punished miscreant was finally was released to run from the study with hands clutching her rear, tears dripping down her cheeks -- and who knows what in her mind.
Why tell this story again? To begin with, its details are known to very few and that seems a pity. The headmaster of the school where it occurred died some decades ago and his possessions came into the possession of a niece who remained entirely uninterested in them until, browsing through them one day, she discovered a number of diaries and detailed notes that turned out to have a close connection with the contents of a long wooden box, namely a collection of some thirty canes. Her curiosity aroused, she embarked on some lengthy, but discrete, enquiries, that eventually produced some remarkable testimony, not only of the person we are calling Priscilla X, but also of another person, whom we will call Lynette Z. Apparently nothing else about Anna Y could be tracked down, so she appears only as she was seen by the others. The testimony of the diaries and of the two women who had been girls at the school turned out, by a remarkable coincidence, to coincide at the point that forms this story, the story of a caning. It is always a good story, worth refreshing in the minds of those interested in such events. This is especially so if we remember that it is always about an individual and a particular bottom. However many times it had occurred before, for the girl bending over under the swishing cane, the only thing that mattered at that moment was that it was her bottom and no other bottom in which a fiery line was imprinted every time a swish ended in a thwack. What this story also tells of, however, is not just the few painful minutes in the study, but the hours of mental anguish that preceded it. Priscilla had never even considered the possibility of a caning before an unusual moment of bad judgment led to the sudden prospect that, indeed, twenty-four hours hence she would be visiting the headmaster's study, where she knew she would hear those words that haunted the schoolgirl's imagination: "bend over!" This is a brief account of those twenty-four hours.
This account, however, must first be even more briefly set in the larger story that emerged from the documents, that of British private education and of its effects on a particular school a half century or so ago. Saint Swithin's School for Girls was a large and ungainly lump of gray masonry located amid some singularly unwelcoming moorland in Northern England. If it looked more like a prison than a school this simply reflected the Victorian era in which it had been built. Across the road was a small and uninteresting town, to which the girls were allowed limited access in the period of this story. Ten miles down the road was a much more interesting town, to which they were allowed none.
The schools buildings were divided into three main sections. One was residential, with the girls' houses and dormitories at one end, another was mainly administrative, with the staff in the middle, and the headmaster's residence at the other. A chapel, an assembly hall with a cloister, a couple of towers - in one of which the school prefects common room was located on the second floor - a gym and then, of course, the classrooms were connected around courtyards in another complex. Game fields lay close by.
The school had once flourished, especially as it served to educate the daughters of those who served the empire in far-flung colonies. The remoteness of the school's location was often considered a good thing by these parents. However, the passing of empire and the democratization of education had nearly led to its demise. The school trustees met to consider its fate. They were dominated by Lady A, a distinguished local aristocrat. She was very conservative in many ways, but she was also a very smart and well-educated woman. "Modernize!" she declared, "But not by competing with dozens of other declining schools by desperately following the latest educational fad. No! What we must do is, indeed, to offer an excellent education, but make a point of our conservative virtues - literacy, moral probity and disciplined behavior. I promise you - if we offer good education with these values, then we will get many students, both from the families of those far-flung corporations that have replaced our empire, and from those families who still wish to ensure that their daughters grow up straight and true!"
The trustees were convinced. A desperate program of fund raising generated enough to modernize the school buildings, somewhat, and to hire new staff who where sufficiently well qualified to improve the instruction to the standards which the very smart Lady A had realized were essential. The obvious facts that the school was remote, gloomy and obviously somewhat conservative, in themselves helped to select teachers who were not only competent but comfortable with these conditions.
The selection of headmaster was critical but turned out to be harder. In the end they selected a Dr. Stanton (as we shall call him). He was a man in his fifties, bearded, rather austere but nevertheless rather elegant. His academic credentials were impeccable, although were hints of some murky past - something to the effect of his being rather too strict a disciplinarian and, indeed, at his interview he asked about the school's policy on corporal punishment. The trustees told him that the school had always adhered to the belief that to spare the rod would spoil the child, and they were happy to leave all such matters to his own management. He seemed more than satisfied with this, promised to raise the academic standards of the school, and was appointed.
He arrived, told everyone that high standards in all things would henceforth be demanded, fired some of the staff and appointed apparently better qualified people in their place, and began to institute a variety of changes. Academic standards did indeed improve rapidly. More parents began to send their daughters to the school, bringing more money. Soon it had approximately 500 students. It maintained this number partly by accepting young women through the age of 18, and even 19. This often suited families who lived abroad and also those who hoped that another year of good scholarship and strict discipline would bring recalcitrant daughters to their senses. The school in any case enjoyed an increasingly sound reputation in certain circles of society, and the trustees were delighted.
Dr. Stanton, secure in his position and with trustees who had no wish to interfere with an institution that was financially so sound, made absolutely sure in all things that scholastic standards remained excellent. He was thus able to pursue a more personal interest with his characteristically careful planning, and to revive it along with the revival of the school's educational regime. This was the corporal punishment of young woman. It was, in fact, this interest that had caused some murkiness in his record of morality that the school trustees had chosen to ignore.
It is here that we need to refer back to some formative events that were detailed in Dr. Stanton's diaries. His career as a Caning Master (the term he liked to use for himself) had actually begun in a boys' school, when he was a young master and where the duty to administer a caning was first imposed upon him by circumstances beyond his control. To his surprise, he found it rather satisfying and realized that it might, indeed, become a practice of considerable skill, which he then sought to acquire. He was subsequently offered a position at a girls' school. He took it because it paid better, wondering only to himself, and that idly, whether his days with the cane were now over. To his surprise, again, soon after taking up his position there he was instructed to administer the cane to an errant female student. He must have looked a trifle surprised, for the headmistress, who giving him the order, promptly asked, "Did you not have to cane boys in your previous position?!" "Well," she continued, "Apart from the fact that a skirt has to be raised instead of trousers being lowered, and that there are knickers instead of underpants, there's no difference!" Dr. Stanton did his best to accept this as unproblematic, though he was far from convinced. Never having confronted a live, bare female bottom before, he was, in fact, somewhat nervous. Even though he had, indeed, become quite skilled in administering the cane to a good many male bottoms, when he later retired to his study, he proceeded to tie a pillow over the back of a chair and to practice at length both his caning technique and his demeanor. The next day, waiting in his study for the appointed visit, he may well have been more nervous than the girl, who knew well what was in store for her. It was not the first occasion for her, at the hands of both female and male teachers. When Dr. Stanton heard her knock on the door, he composed his mind, straightened his clothes and ordered the girl to enter. When she did, he simply asked, "Do you know you are here to be caned?" On her whispered "Yes sir!" he took up the cane as he had done often before and instructed her to "bend over," as he also had often done. Almost to his amazement, she promptly did so, leaving him with the problem of what to do next, especially since he had always told male students to lower their trousers and pants before they bent in front of him. Summoning his courage, he advanced to raise the girl's skirt and pull down her knickers, and managed to do this with only a modicum of fumbling. The girl made no protest - probably because she was sufficiently errant to be herself unsurprised at being so served. Dr. Stanton, trying not to stare too enthusiastically at his first view of a girl's bottom, and even a glimpse of the intimacies between her thighs, nevertheless judged it entirely necessary to fix his gaze firmly on his target. He adopted his practiced stance, grasped his cane firmly, laid it across a very nicely curved pair of bottom cheeks, tapped twice to confirm his aim, and delivered six of the best. The girl made noises of considerable discomfort but nevertheless remained in position. The punishment was executed without a problem and resulted in a nicely compact pattern of six crimson welts. Dr. Stanton was used to the effects of his cane upon the cheeks of a bottom, but he had to admit that when the bottom was female, the results seemed somehow even more fascinating. Summoning himself abruptly from an incipient reverie, he hurriedly ordered the girl to stand up and be gone - which she did, with tears in her eyes but little sign of resentment.
As, however, she had begun straightening herself, yanking up her knickers, Dr. Stanton had had a final glimpse of her now striped bottom. This apparently provoked a disconcerting thought, which materialized in his mind even as the girl closed the door behind her. Was it not an exceedingly strange, almost bizarre practice, this inflicting of painful bruises upon a young woman's posterior? Who had first thought of doing it, and how had the practice become so well established? As he puzzled over this question, he walked over to his second-floor window and, flexing the cane between his two hands, stood staring at the courtyard below, full of scurrying girls. Suddenly he saw the girl he had just caned, walking rather slowly across the courtyard, hands clutching her bottom and at intervals appearing to wipe tears from her eyes. He found himself imagining the welts across her bottom, now decently hidden beneath her skirt. For reasons that he neither understood nor wondered at, this sight banished the preceding queries from his mind, to which they never returned. The female posterior, he had just discovered, had an almost mesmerizing quality. In form, fullness and firmness, it offered to the cane a perfect field of activity - almost, he thought, like a canvas to the brush of an expert painter - that made it seem as though a Divine Artist had designed it for this purpose above all others. The attractiveness of the male bottom as a target paled in comparison. Dr. Stanton's career was transformed at that moment. It took him through a couple more girls' schools, at one of which he suffered reproof after the nurse noticed some rather severely marked bottoms. He recovered from this setback, however, and eventually finished up at St. Swithin's.