Mr Dudley glowered at the schoolroom full of sixth-form pupils. Somebody was whispering. He could hear but he could not see. The sound appeared to be coming from somewhere near the back.
He peered through rounded eye glasses; his side whiskers bristled. Important examinations were due, the boys should be studying hard, not engaging in tomfoolery.
“Buchan, what are you doing?” Mr Dudley’s voice rasped sharply, jarring the generally studious atmosphere in the small, airless schoolroom.
“What were you doing, Buchan?” repeated Mr Dudley sternly.
Ronald Alan Francis Buchan glanced up, somewhat startled and confused. Now, all eyes in the room had turned from text-books toward RAF Buchan.
“I was whispering, sir,” Ronald confessed.
“Oh, was that all?” Mr Dudley, commonly known by his pupils as “Old Dud,” demanded sarcastically.
“To whom were you whispering?”
“To Johnstone, Sir”
Old Dud stood from his uncomfortable wooden chair and pulled his worn black academic gown tightly around his body. He glared at Ronald. The other boys sat silently, ready to enjoy the sideshow that was unfolding before them.
“If I am intruding on no confidences, what were you whispering about?” Old Dud sneered.
“I …” began Ronald, and then his face turned scarlet under the curious gaze of his fellow sixth-formers. “I was telling Johnstone a funny story.”
“Do you think it was very funny?” inquired Old Dud.
Ronald felt his hands shake. He was not a boy who dealt well with confrontation. He wished he had kept his mouth shut. “The story? Yes, Sir.”
The broad grin that promptly spread over “Johnny” Johnstone’s face seemed to confirm Ronald’s claim. It had been a funny story.
Old Dud stared wildly. His eyes could resemble saucers when his ire was raised. Before him sat fifteen eighteen-year-old boys. Many would consider them young adults, but legally they did not become that until there reached the age of twenty-one. Even so, they should behave maturely, Old Dud considered. Instead RAF Buchan was behaving like the most junior boy in the school. Well, Old Dud decided, if that’s the way he wanted it.
“Buchan, you may rise in your seat and tell the story to the whole class, myself included. On this dull, rainy day I feel certain that we all need a good laugh.”
A smile that grew to a titter in some quarters of the room greeted Ronald as he struggled half-shamefacedly to his feet.
“Go on with the story,” encouraged Old Dud. “Or, rather, begin at the beginning. That’s the right way to serve up a story.”
“I… I’d rather not tell the story, Sir,” Ronald protested.
“Why not?” demanded the schoolmaster sharply.
“Well, because, Sir … I’d rather not. That’s all.”
Old Dud often employed a grilling way of questioning to make his young charges squirm before the class. Whispering, in itself, was not a criminal offence, yet it often had a bad effect on the discipline of a schoolroom, and of late Old Dud had been much annoyed by whisperers.
“So you won’t tell us all that choice story, eh, Buchan?” insisted the schoolmaster as a hint of a smile played at his lips.
“On account of its being such a very personal one I’d rather not, Sir,” Ronald stared at the bare wooden floorboard beneath his feet. He clasped his hands behind his back; he could not get them to stop shaking. “I might hurt someone’s feelings.”
“Too bad!” murmured Old Dud. “And just after we had all been enlivened by the hope of hearing something really funny! I know your rare quality of humour, Buchan, and I had promised myself a treat,” Old Dud dripped sarcasm. “My own disappointment in the matter may be cured, but what about the boys of this class? I know that they are all still eager to hear a really funny story.”
Old Dud paused, glancing impressively about the room. Ronald shifted first to one foot and then to the other. His cheeks, temples and forehead were aflame.
“Buchan,” the schoolmaster glowered, “the class shall not be deprived of its expected treat. I will tell a story, and I think you will find some of the elements of humour in it. Will you kindly step this way?”
Ronald went forward. He failed miserably to look defiant. He held his head up and threw out his chest as a titter ran around the room.
“Stand right here beside me,” coaxed Old Dud. He moved his chair so that it stood between his desk and his pupils. Then, he turned to the desk, leant forward and opened a drawer. The silence in the schoolroom was intense. Every boy present knew what was kept in that drawer. Old Dud withdrew a long, narrow leather strap. It was old and worn and had seen much action. He held it between his hands as if seeing it for the first time. It was about eighteen inches long and the “business” end was divided into two tails. It was extremely heavy and it stung his palm when experimentally he smacked it into his hand.
He sat on the straight-backed armless chair. Ronald stood crestfallen by his side. “Now, let me see if I can remember the story. Yes; I believe I can. It runs something like this.”
It was a very ordinary story that had to do with a boy’s disobedience of his father’s commands. “So,” continued Old Dud, “Mr Shepherd took his boy into the parlour. There, with a sigh as though his heart were breaking, the old man seated himself on the chair. He gathered his son across his knee – about like this.”
Here, Old Dud suddenly caught Ronald by the arm and directed the eighteen-year-old across his own knee. The expectant class now snickered loudly.
“I can’t tell this story unless I have quiet,” announced Old Dud, glancing up and around the room with a reproachful look. Then, after clearing his throat, the schoolmaster resumed, ‘“Ronny,’ said the old man huskily, ‘I know what my duty in the matter really is. I ought to give you a good spanking, like this (whack!). But I haven’t the heart to give you such a blow as you deserve. (Whack!) But the next time (whack!), I’m going to give you (whack!) just such a good one (whack! whack!) as you deserve. (Whack! whack!) So, remember, Ronny (whack!), and don’t let me catch you (whack!) disobeying me again. (Whack! whack!).”
Old Dud emphasised each “whack” by bringing down the heavy strap across Ronald’s meaty backside. There were a few flashing eyes in the young audience, and a few sympathetic glances from Ronald’s pals, but, for the most part, the class was now in a loud roar of laughter.
“That’s the story,” announced Old Dud, gently restoring Ronald to his feet. “I think you all see the point to it. Perhaps there’s a moral to it, also. I really don’t know.”
Pallor due to a sense of outraged dignity now struggled for a place in the red that covered Ronald Buchan’s face.
“You may go to your seat, Buchan.”
Ronald marched there, without a glance backward.
“Now, that we’ve had our little indulgence in humour,” announced Old Dud dryly, “we shall all return to our studies.”
There was silence again in the room, during which the rain outside began to come down in a flood.
“Old Dud’s getting rather too fresh these days,” growled Johnny Johnstone to his chum Ronald later that day. “We’ll get even with him tonight. Some of us will go around to his house and wreck his flower gardens.”
He stopped in his tracks. He had an even better idea. “I know, we’ll switch Old Dud’s new gate off and dump it in the river.”
So, it was that close to midnight, Ronald, Johnny and their chum Donald, were at Old Dud’s house. The gate was wrought iron. It was ornately decorated. It would have cost the schoolmaster a tidy sum. It was also unexpectedly heavy.
“This won’t do,” Donald gasped. They had hardly raised the gate a couple of inches off the hinges. They would need a block and tackle to do the job properly.
“Let’s just trample his flower beds,” Johnny said.
“Good idea. Let’s.”
But before the three teenagers could move, a light appeared on the porch. Old Dud stood there in his dressing-gown. “Who’s there! I know somebody is there.” The schoolmaster peered into the gloom. “Is that you, Buchan? Johnstone? McAllister?”
Old Dud was no fool. He knew the calibre of the boys he taught. He expected to be “ragged” by them following the public spanking he had given Ronald. The boys and masters were constantly at war. Now, he had caught them red-handed intent on causing damage to his gate. He had watched studiously from his bedroom window as the young fools tried to carry off his prized possession.
“My study. Morning break,” he barked. There was no need to say further. His instruction was understood. There would be an awesome price to pay for their escapade.
Next day three miserable sixth-former stood in the passageway outside Old Dud’s oak-panelled study door, waiting. Old Dud was not at home. They faced the wall, nose pressed close, hands clasped on the tops of their school caps. No one had ordered them to do this, but they knew from painful past experience, this was the way a boy presented himself while awaiting a master’s return.
Minutes that felt like hours passed. None of the boys spoke; they were alone with their thoughts. There was no doubting what would happen after Old Dud arrived. All that was in question was how many strokes.
At last, Old Dud trundled down the passageway, a cup and saucer in his hand. He affected a nonchalant air; he had no troubles to speak of. It was the three sixth-formers who had the worries. “Wait five minutes and then knock,” he growled at none of the boys in particular. He opened the study door, went in, closed the door and sat at his plush chair behind his enormous desk. Quietly, he sipped his tea. Let the boys stew, he thought.
The knock on the door duly came. “Enter!” he called imperiously. The heavy door inched open. Roland led the way, his face grim, his shoulders stooped. Johnny and Donald traipsed behind.
“There!” Old Dud pointed a long bony finger at a spot in front of his desk. The teenagers shuffled into position. The schoolmaster peered through his round eye glasses. Each boy seemed suitably discomforted. Neither could look at the aging schoolmaster. Each found his own spot on the faded rug to interrogate.
Old Dud sneered, “Which of you fine young specimens would care to explain your presence at my house at midnight?” He watched as each in turn coloured beetroot. None seemed willing to provide an explanation.
“Buchan!” Old Dud barked. “Explain yourself. At once.” Old Dud was a bit of a ham actor; he knew how to strike fear into the hearts of small boys. The three sixth-formers carpeted before him were far from small boys, but his terror tactics were working.
Still none dared answer.
“Let me fill in the details,” Old Dud leaned back in his chair, drew his academic gown around his body and fixed them with a steely gaze. “You thought you would play a trick on me. You wanted to get back at me for taking Buchan across my knee and spanking his naughty backside. You decided to steal my gate. Is that not the long and the short of it?”
“Well Buchan! Answer me!” he roared.
“Yes, Sir,” came the slightest whisper.
“I had deduced correctly. This will not do Buchan, Johnstone, McAllister,” he sighed, “This will not do at all.”
McAllister’s eyes were already watering. He nearly burst into tears when Old Dud proclaimed theatrically, but with no malice, “I am going to beat each of you and I am going to beat you most severely.”
The three boys blanched.
“First, take off your blazers and set them down on my desk.” Old Dud watched closely as with fumbling fingers the three eighteen-year-old sixth-formers struggled to comply with his demands. At last three blue-and-black-stripped blazers were off.
He rose from his desk and paced to the far side of the study. He could feel the heat of three pairs of eyes burning into his back as he drew a key from his trouser pocket and slowly unlocked the door to a tall thin cabinet. He reached inside. There was a large selection of punishment canes; some long, some short. Many were thin; others thicker. Some were ashplants; others were made of whippy rattan. He was searching for a special cane. One that he reserved for older pupils. One that would leave the three miscreants in severe pain.
It was a stout dense Malacca, more than three feet in length. Unlike his other canes this did not have a crooked handle. It was straight, although a little warped from use. Twine had been wrapped around one end to form a grip. It had notches every four or five inches along its length. It was these that would cause the most damage to the boys’ backsides.
He closed the cabinet door and turned to face the three boys. He swiped the Malacca through the air to demonstrate its effectiveness and was delighted to be rewarded by almost audible gasps from the three sixth-formers.
“Right all three of you stand in a line.” The boys eyed one another apprehensively, not only were they to be thrashed severely they were going to get it in front of their friends. Their pals would see how well (or not) they could take it.
“Buchan you stand there,” Old Dud steered the boy by this shoulders into place. “Johnstone, you here,” he manoeuvred the teenager a yard or two to the right and a pace forward of his companion. “McAllister, you here.”
The boys were lined up alongside each other, but arranged in steps so Old Dud could move freely between each of them to deliver his caning.
“‘It will be six for each of you.” It was the maximum school regulations allowed him to deliver, but he would have dearly loved to give Buchan more: he was developing into a rebel of the first order.
“Now lower your trousers. Bend over, touch your toes.” Old Dud paused for effect. He knew the boys expected to be caned, but not with their trousers down. He delighted in the look of abject horror that flashed across McAllister’s face. The other two were also suitably shocked.
“B. b. b.” Johnstone wanted to protest, but words literally failed him.
“Sir?” Buchan implored. But protestations were futile. The schoolmaster was in charge. He had made up his mind and as every schoolboy that ever suffered a caning knew, the master was always in control.
They had shown difficulty removing their blazers. Lowering the trousers was more so. At last all fly buttons were unfastened and grey flannel trousers slipped down thighs. Three boys stood; nervousness etched in their faces.
“Bend down and touch your toes.” It was a calm instruction, but one Old Dud expected to be obeyed. The three miserable teenagers reached for their toes.
“Keep those knees straight, McAllister. Legs further apart. Johnstone move further forward.”
Once the boys were in position to his satisfaction, Old Dud went over to each of them and raised the tail of their shirts up their backs, away from their stretched posteriors. Buchan felt a chill run across his naked flesh. He could not be certain if it was fear or a genuine coldness in the room.
All three boys were stoic at first. They had all been beaten before; it was that kind of school.
But, Johnstone had not been thrashed by Old Dud previously. He had heard from other boys that a tanning from him was awesome; the agony in the arse was like nothing else you could experience.
He was soon to find out the truth of the matter. Old Dud set about his task with vigour. He was not dealing with a seemingly trivial matter; this was personal. The teenagers bent before him and offering up their backsides for a schoolmaster’s caning had attacked his home. He would not stand for this and order must be restored.
One by one he lashed the boys with his fierce Malacca cane. First Buchan received a stoke; then McAllister; then Johnstone, and then back to Buchan again. Until all three boys felt six stingers across their buttocks.
They tried to be brave. In Old Dud’s experience all boys tried to be while they were being caned: they did not want to give their punisher the satisfaction of knowing they were in agony. The schoolmaster approved of that: it was about strong character, acknowledging you had done wrong and accepting the consequences without fuss.
This time the three punished boys also had to prove to their chums that they could take it. And, maybe they also wanted to show they could take it better than their fellows.
Even so, by the time the third stroke had bounced off Johnstone’s backside, all three were in tears. Somehow, despite the agonising heat under their underpants, all the boys managed to stay in position (but only just in the case of Johnstone).
The three were deathly pale when Old Dud at last allowed them to stand. Each wanted to desperately rub at the seat of his underpants to try to drive away the pain, but they dared not: none wanted to lose face in front of their friends.
And, that was it. Old Dud returned the cane to the cupboard and lectured them some more about the need for obedience. The boys were not listening; they desperately wanted to get out of there so they could cool their burning bum cheeks.
At last, three throbbing sets of buttocks were released into the autumnal sunshine.
Other stories you might like
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second