“Send Master George to me!”
Colonel Thompson flexed the cane between his hands thoughtfully. It was an ideal specimen. A crook handled ashplant, fully three feet in length, and as thick as a pencil. It would do the job admirably.
Gripping the ashplant just below the handle he swished the cane up and down and then in an arc to left and right through the air.
The Colonel knew he had a duty to perform this evening and he had prepared thoroughly. His gamekeeper had secured a number of ashplant canes from a man in the village. Old Mr Hardacre was an expert in making walking sticks, but he also performed the task of producing ashplant punishment canes, which were effective at correcting any miscreant boy. Indeed, there was probably not a house in the village that did not contain one or two examples of Mr Hardacre’s handiwork.
The Colonel had dined, and he was alone now in the old, dark, oak-panelled dining-room at Thompson Lodge. A bronzed, grim-visaged old soldier was the Colonel, and under the rugged exterior there was a man of iron.
The door of the dining-room opened, and the Colonel compressed his lips slightly as he looked at the boy who came into the room.
He was a handsome, well-built lad, finely-formed, strong and active. He was eighteen years old and stood no taller than 5ft 7ins. His face was handsome but there was a cloud upon it and in his dark eyes was a glint of defiance. The whole manner of the boy was one of suppressed opposition, and the Colonel realised it keenly enough without words being spoken.
“You sent for me, uncle.”
In the tones of George Thompson, too, was a half-hidden hostility and defiance, as if he knew that he had not been sent for in a friendly spirit, and was ready to meet anger with anger.
“Yes, George.” Colonel Thompson’s voice was very mild, but it betrayed the anger that was raging inside of him.
“Stand there boy. I want to speak to you.”
George Thompson did not move. The Colonel raised his eyebrows.
“Stand there boy.”
“I suppose you are not going to keep me long.” said the boy doggedly. “I want to go out before dark.”
The Colonel half rose from his seat, a flush of anger darkening his cheek.
“Stand there!” he thundered.
For a moment it looked as if the order would be disobeyed, but the Colonel’s thunderous face impelled obedience. George Thompson slowly and sullenly moved to the spot indicated by the Colonel.
“Now, George,” said the Colonel, “I want to speak to you seriously. I am your uncle: you are the only son of my only brother, and you should understand that I have your truest interests at heart.”
The boy’s lips slightly curled, but he did not speak.
“I have come home from India,” resumed the Colonel, slightly raising his tone, “to find that you have run completely wild under the charge of my sister, and I should not be doing my duty to my dead brother if I did not take you in hand and make at least an attempt to put you on a better road.
“You have done exactly as you liked, and you have not the least idea of discipline. During the month that I have been at home I have tried to improve you…”
“Perhaps I don’t want improving,” George interrupted the Colonel, a dangerous thing to do.
“You probably think so,” said the Colonel. “But I think otherwise, and, as your guardian, I have my duty to do. You are obstinate and wilful, and inclined to be insolent to your elders. All that must cease. You have run wild too long. That must come to an end.
“You are determined to have your way, and I am determined that you are not to have it.”
George Thompson smiled slightly. He knew perfectly well that the old man had undertaken his reform and he had set himself against it. The Colonel would find his reform thankless task, but he had not been quite prepared for what was to happen soon.
The smile on the boy’s face irritated the Colonel, and he had to make an effort to speak calmly and dispassionately as he went on, “You are indeed in need of discipline and this evening I shall take it upon myself to teach you a very important lesson in life.
“I shall thrash you most severely. It is the very least that you deserve for your constant insolent behaviour.”
George bristled. He had not expected this turn of events.
George had not seen the ashplant lying on top of the shiny dining table. The Colonel strode across the room and picked up the cane.
“Go and bend all the way over that chair!” The Colonel thundered pointing to a dining room chair he had previously strategically positioned.
George knew he was in for the thrashing of his life. It would be excruciatingly painful. It was to demonstrate beyond all doubt that the Colonel had complete control over him.
But, George was not going to give in. He would not show the Colonel he had won. No matter how severe the flogging, George would not give his tormentor one indication that he was suffering.
Boldly, but it was with false bravado, George marched up to the indicated chair and without hesitation put himself over its back. His lowered his head and raised his bottom high, ready for the lashing. It might look to an innocent onlooker that George’s had taken up a position of submission.
On the contrary it was a position of defiance. No words needed to be spoken, but George said to the Colonel, “Go ahead! Do your worst. I don’t care. I can take it. You’ll never break me.”
The Colonel heard the unspoken defiance. He despised the boy and the boy hated him back. The Colonel would rip the boy to shreds; he didn’t have a mind to what condition George’s backside would be in at the end of the thrashing.
The Colonel was a military man, he lived by obedience. He also lived by duty. It was the Colonel’s duty, he knew without question, to ensure that George understood the meaning of obedience.
The Colonel had never thrashed a boy before, but that did not trouble him. In the case of George there could be no such occasion as lashing too hard. It did not matter one jot to the Colonel that by the end of the punishment the boy’s backside would be torn to pieces. The boy must be broken: all hint of defiance vanquished.
The Colonel’s knuckles whitened as he gripped the cane, ready to start his task. He looked across at George draped over the chair awaiting his attention. George let out the air of one who was untroubled. That innocent bystander would not know by George’s demeanour that this was the prelude to a whipping that could leave him unable to walk in comfort for days.
George’s outward demeanour was one of calm, but inside he raged. He was outraged that the Colonel had the power to put him in such a position. His rage was such that he determined no matter how hard the lashing was to be, he would remain outwardly unconcerned. He would not let the Colonel see he was a beaten boy. He would not let the Colonel win.
Still gripping the cane tightly, the Colonel marched the five paces across the room to the chair. He raised the cane high into the air and with all the powerful force a military man possessed, he lashed it into the seat of George’s britches.
Not a murmur came from George.
The Colonel repeated the swipe. He hit George so hard it was as if he were beating a carpet.
Pain shot through George. It started at the point of contact on his buttocks and within seconds touched every nerve in his body. He wanted to yell; to scream; to shake the rafters of the huge dining room. But, something, call it stubbornness if you will, refused to let him do this.
The Colonel’s face, quite red to begin with, now turned purple. This was an outrage. The boy had shown no contrition for his crimes and now he was showing no reaction to his flogging.
The Colonel stepped forward to view George’s face. He saw the handsome young eighteen-year-old was pale, so white that even a ghost would look grey beside him. George turned his head away.
He did not want the Colonel to see his eyes, for if he did, the Colonel would have known immediately that George was indeed broken. They were the eyes of a boy whose body had been crushed, but who was fighting against odds to determine that his spirit would not also go the same way.
The Colonel was not a cruel man, but he believed in duty and as he had previously determined it mattered not at all if George was whipped to shreds.
He raised the cane high again and jumping a little from the floor slashed two swipes into George’s posterior. The boy jerked as the impact of two lashes, one immediately after the other, hit their intended target, almost exactly on the same spot.
George’s bottom was a mess of cuts, he could feel welts rising under his britches and he knew instinctively that blood was seeping from them.
Slash! Slash! Two more cuts landed and the sound echoed round the room like rifle shots.
The Colonel stood back. His heart was racing, the rage inside him, rather than subsiding as he had expected as the boy succumbed to his punishment, increased. The boy must be in agony, the Colonel knew this but he showed no sign. George was physically beaten, that was certain, but his spirit remained whole.
George, still across the back of the dining room chair was breathing heavily. Both hands gripped the seat in front of him. His fingernails had dug so deeply into the wooden chair that they were trickling blood.
But, as yet there were no tears, no vocal expressions of sorrow, or of contrition, no begging for mercy, or promises to mend ways, if only the thrashing would cease.
The boy was not yet broken.
“Stand up!” With great difficulty George tried to rise. His body did not wish to respond to his brain’s commands at movement. Eventually George was on his feet, but unsteadily. His movement had disturbed the contours of his buttocks, which rubbed gently against his underclothes and britches. It was a gentle kissing of flesh on wool, but its effect was to send waves of agony from the welts and shoot pain through his whole body.
George stared straight ahead; he could not bear to look the Colonel in the eye: he knew if he did so, he would break down and the Colonel would have won.
George heard the sound of the cane swishing through the air behind his back. The Colonel put as much effort into these practice strokes as he had done to the thrashing itself. The action was intended to intimidate George and the plan was working.
Was George’s ordeal not yet completed?
“Lower your britches.”
It was a barked order from the Colonel. He was a military man and he had the voice of command.
George hesitated, but just for a part of a second.
He was agonised by the thrashing and was broken, but he would not, could not, let the Colonel know this.
He fought hard to steady his hands and fingers as he unbuttoned his britches and their weight alone took them down as far as his knees.
A simple order. To the point.
George did as commanded. Again his fingers dug themselves into the wooden seat of the chair.
Once again George submissively offered his rear to the swish of the ashplant. The Colonel hated this boy. He hated his behaviour to his sister. He hated his insubordination. He hated his refusal to give in.
The Colonel took three steps backwards, raised the cane high above his shoulder and rushed in at George, slashing the most almighty swipe into his backside.
Again and again, the Colonel rushed and slashed into George. Blood was now freely flowing from wounds and George’s woollen drawers were stained red.
George very nearly bit off his tongue in an effort to stifle a yell. He wanted to, he wanted to express the agony he was feeling. It was a physical emotion. Any person suffering so much pain would want to howl like a banshee.
But, to yell and scream, would not seem like a natural physical reaction, it would, to George, be an admission, of defeat. He would have lost and the Colonel would have won.
The Colonel gave George six on the drawers, making twelve good cuts in total.
The Colonel could see the boy was physically beaten, but his spirit was not.
Purple with rage, the Colonel marched to the opposite end of the room. He was a military tactician and he was regrouping. He must consider his strategy. The enemy was injured, but not defeated. What should he do now?
Step up the punishment? Make one final push to see off the enemy’s defences. What should he do?
He looked across at George’s body. George lay still across the chair. The Colonel could only see him from the rear end, and the scene appeared one of quiet serenity. But had the Colonel ventured forward to see his enemy from the front, he would see from George’s face that this was a defeated enemy.
The next assault: the drawers should come down and six stingers, no a dozen lashes, should be administered with maximum severity on George’s bared buttocks.
But no, this, even the Colonel could not contemplate. He cared nothing that the lashes would rip the boy’s flesh and expose meat below. No, the baring of the buttocks would be immodest. He did not care what others said on the matter, nakedness of this sort was not godly. He did not have to be told that as a magistrate in the district he often sentenced miscreants to the birch rod, and he knew the circumstances in which a birching was administered.
No. George would be spared removal of the drawers.
The Colonel took on deep breath, and again strode towards George. The Colonel gave George twelve almighty swipes at pace, one after the other, like a machine gun.
At one point George’s body rose from the back of the chair, but his hands remained gripping the wooden seat. Lash! Lash! Lash! The Colonel’s cane bounced into George’s backside. The blows were so rapid, George had no time to react to one, before the next flayed into him.
That innocent onlooker might have supposed the Colonel was out of control. But, far from it: he knew what he was doing and he set about his task with relish. If the boy’s spirit could not be broken this evening, his body most certainly would.
At the completion of twelve lashes, the Colonel was breathless. And, so in his way was George.
Without ceremony, the Colonel commanded that George rise from the chair.
The boy tried to do so. The Colonel could see the boy could not stand on his own. The Colonel’s one regret was that he had not arranged for a servant to be present to carry George off at the end of the ordeal.
At last, George found his feet. He had to hold on to the chair to stop from toppling back to the floor.
The Colonel saw no need for ceremony now. “You are dismissed.”
He turned his back on George and returned the ashplant to a place in the cupboard. As he did this, George, clutching on to furniture as he went, made his exit from the room.
Such was the pain in his buttocks that he could not walk across the great hall to the staircase and was obliged to crawl on hands and knees to the staircase, and hang on to the bannisters as he edged up the stairs to his own bedroom.
When his rage had subsided and later after a glass or two of red wine, the Colonel relived the encounter. He could see that he had won the battle, but maybe not the war. George made a remarkable adversary and there would surely be many more encounters before the war was over.
And, the war would have to be fought to a conclusion: no amnesty could be made.
Other caning stories you might like. Click on the titles
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second