Mr Williams was known to his neighbours as a man of habits. He left the house sharp at 08.30 hrs each morning (Monday to Friday inclusive) and walked the short distance to the railway station where he caught the 08.47 hrs to his workplace, returning home on the 17.17 hrs and depending on the efficiency of the train service he was back in his house in time for the 18.00 hrs news on the wireless.
He spent Saturday mornings in Brocklehurst town centre purchasing provisions, ensuring his tasks were completed no later than 13.00 hrs. In summer he spent Saturday afternoons working in his garden. On Sundays, whatever the season, he took his place on the end of the third pew from the back at St. Andrew’s Church.
He spoke to no one at the church and rarely to his neighbours. The best they might get from him was a mumbled “Good morning,” if severely pressed. He liked it like that and so did his neighbours; The Avenue was that kind of street.
On Sunday afternoon, like this particular day, he would retire to his back bedroom. There he would divest himself of his overly-formal custom-tailored dark-grey three-piece suit before carefully placing it upon a hanger, which he would then equally as carefully place at the back of a single-sized wardrobe, alongside the shop-bought business suits he wore during the week.
He would stand quite naked, apart from a pair of cream-coloured long johns, and for a moment or two contemplate his sagging frame in the mirror. Before opening a second much larger wardrobe. Flicking through the clothes hanging on the bar, each in a dust proof bag, he would make his selection. Then with the care that was his watchword he would remove each dust bag and lay the garments over the back of a small upholstered armchair.
First, he slipped into the heavy cotton collarless white shirt before unsteadily perching on one leg he pulled on a pair of heavy black twill trousers. He struggled to get a thick dark grey waistcoat to fully button across his rotund stomach. It had been many moons since he had managed to fasten the lower most button. Then, he took hold of a black jacket. This he pulled over his waistcoat. He stretched his arms wide and circled them like windmills; testing that there was sufficient ‘give’ in his clothes.
Almost fully dressed, he wobbled across the room to an ancient battered chest of drawers. He opened the first one and extracted a cardboard wing collar and stud. It was but a moment’s work to get each attached. He was very nearly done. A black tie, no wider than a bootlace, completed the ensemble. In the second drawer down he found a black hat. It was he admitted to himself his pride and joy. It was the authentic thing. Decades old. He had bought it from a retired schoolmaster from the local St. Francis School; a mortar-board cap, a little battered by decades of use. The tassel hanging from one corner was classic. Although both his hands were unsteady he fixed it squarely on his head. His heart thumped hard.
“Nearly there,” he told himself silently. Only one more thing to do before he could get started. He stooped low and tugged at the bottom drawer. It was often a bugger to get open. It stuck as usual. “Damn and blast! What is wrong with the damned thing!” he cursed openly although no one was there to hear. Suddenly, the drawer sprang loose, almost sending him tumbling to the floor and onto his backside.
He breathed deeply and his eyes shone. Almost reverentially he leaned forward, putting both hands into the drawer. He smacked his lips and withdrew his pride and joy. He held it high like an offering at the altar. He beamed as he held in his hands three-and-a-bit feet of whippy rattan cane. He had probably handled the school cane more times than he would like to relate, but that never diminished the thrill he experienced each time he pulled it from the drawer. At first he held it beneath the crook-handle. It was as thick as a pencil and as light as a feather.
He returned to the wardrobe and carefully, for this garment could best be described as delicate (‘tatty’ might be more honest), extracted an authentic schoolmaster’s academic gown. He eased it across his shoulder. He turned and faced the mirror. He flexed the cane between his hands; then he swished it through the open air. In the silence of the room it made a terrific swish as it flew! “Bend over boy! Touch your toes!” he scowled. He swiped the cane once more. His transformation to Dr Selwyn Gerard, Headmaster of Albion School, was complete.
Jessop stood in his bright white Y-front underpants. They were brand new and he delighted in rubbing the palm of his hands across his meaty buttocks to luxuriate in the touch of the soft cotton. He picked up his vest. It smelt as fresh as a daisy. He wriggled it over his head. It fitted well if Jessop ignored his growing tummy. He paused, looked round the room and realised there was no mirror. A trifle disheartened, he carried on and reaching over to the table once more and extracted a grey school shirt from a paper wrapper. The shirt was laundered to perfection and as he pulled it on he caught the faint whiff of the starch that had stiffened the collar.
Once dressed he picked up his short trousers. They were mid-grey and properly short. Collywobbles fluttered in his stomach when he athletically stepped first into the left leg and then the right. He pulled them tight and buttoned up. He could not see himself but he knew his face was glowing; blood coursed through his arteries and his fingertips tingled.
He and found his school tie. It was black-and-white diagonal stripes, the Albion School colours. Without a mirror, Jessop had to make several attempts to knot the tie to the expected satisfaction of Dr Gerard. Then, the tongue of the tie had to hang down to rest comfortably on his tummy.
He cursed that there was no mirror. He turned to the window hoping to see his reflection, then with alacrity dodged back into the room when he saw a man in the street walking a dog. Disappointed, he fell into a sumptuous leather armchair to pull up his woollen stockings. They were so very long they reached up his thighs and there was hardly an inch of flesh left uncovered between sock and short trousers. He folded over the black-and-white tops of the stockings until they rested just below the knees.
Soon he was in his shiny black lace-up Clarke’s shoes. Now, he was almost ready: only two more items to put on and he would be fully dressed. The school blazer was draped over a heavy wooden coat-hanger. Andrew caressed the lapel between his finger and thumb. The quality of the cloth was superb. He picked up the garment and smelled its freshness. It was a black blazer with white braiding; simple elegance, he thought. Finally, he took hold of the black-quartered woollen cap and carefully placed it squarely on his head.
Jessop was ready.
Dr Selwyn Gerard, admired his vision in the mirror. His heart beat thirteen to the dozen. He tucked his whippy rattan cane under his arm and turned to a small cupboard in the corner of the room. His secret stash! He poured himself a small measure of whisky from a chunky decanter, downed it in one, and proceeded from the room.
Moments later he was across the passageway and in his study. The room had been designed as a bedroom in a family house but Dr Gerard had no need for family. Long ago he had converted the room to a study. It was sparsely furnished. There was an ancient desk, a glass-fronted bookcase (complete with school textbooks long ago purchased from a charity shop), an umbrella stand, two hardback chairs and a splendid leather armchair.
He sat himself down behind his desk. The top was empty, save for a blotting pad and an inkwell. He rested his cane down, and waited. Moments later there was a timid knock on the door. Dr Gerard took a deep breath, his palms were sweaty so he rubbed them against his academic gown. He cleared his throat and with an authoritative air, called, “Come!” He watched as the handle twitched, the door slowly inched open, and the top of a school cap appeared, then halted.
“Come on boy!” Dr Gerard roared, “I don’t have all afternoon!” Jessop tumbled into the study, pink-faced.
“There boy!” Dr Gerard snapped, clicking his fingers and pointing to a spot on the carpet in front of his desk. Jessop shuffled forward and stood placing his hands behind his back while hopping from foot to foot. His eyes were downcast. Dr Gerard surveyed the scene before him and growled, “Stand up straight boy! Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
Jessop straightened a little. He was no star of the Officers’ Training Corp and he could no more stand to attention with thumbs in line with the seam of his trousers as fly. He stared at a photograph of the school rugby team an inch or so above the headmaster’s head.
“Jessop, Jessop, Jessop,” Dr Gerard sighed as if the boy before him represented all the troubles in the world, “What are we to do with you?”
“Don’t know sir,” the boy sniffled. Dr Gerrard’s eyebrows shot to the ceiling. Didn’t the boy know a rhetorical question when he heard one?
“I have reports from your housemaster. You have absconded from school twice. The first time you were punished by Mr Corlett. Now, you have absented yourself again and this time you were found at the travelling fair!” He paused for effect. “What are we to do with you?”
“Don’t know sir,” Jessop replied again.
“Don’t you,” Dr Gerard scowled, looking down at the cane on his desk, “Don’t you really?” Jessop paled. He entwined his fingers behind his back and looked down at the desk. “Oh sir,” he whimpered.
“Oh sir, indeed!” Dr Gerard was in his element. “You leave me very little choice Jessop.” He leaned back in his chair, steepled his fingers and glared at the boy. “None at all.” He wiped his sweaty palms once more. “Come on boy, let’s get on with it. You know what is expected.”
Jessop bit his bottom lip, his feet were rooted to the floor but he twisted his body so he could scan across the room. The headmaster read his mind. “I think we’ll have you by the door Jessop.”
“Oh sir.” Jessop was a boy of few words. He stood miserably as the headmaster hauled himself from his chair. “Stand there!” he commanded, pointing to the door. Jessop grimaced. There wasn’t anything he could say. What was the point? He had been caught bang to rights. Dr Gerard was the headmaster and he, Jessop, was the pupil. Matters must take their course.
Dr Gerard picked up the cane and delighted when colour drained from Jessop’s face. He swiped the cane through the air. “Bend over, touch your toes.” Jessop’s mouth opened and closed as if he were about to protest. “Something to say about the matter, Jessop?” the headmaster snarled.
“No sir. Sorry sir.” Jessop turned his back on his tormentor and in one athletic movement he spread his legs, bent forward and pressed his fingertips against the toes of his shoes. He knew from experience with Dr Gerard that “ touch your toes” meant just that; not shins or knees. Jessop looked down at the dark grey carpet. He breathed deeply. This would hurt. This would hurt a lot.
He felt his short trousers and Y-front underpants stretch across his buttocks; he was presenting the headmaster with a terrific target. He felt the stout whippy cane tap against the underside of his cheeks. “Let’s say twelve shall we Jessop,” Dr Gerard said calmly. There was a pause and for a moment Jessop wondered if he were expected to reply. Perhaps he was being asked to bargain, “Oh no sir,” he could say, “I think six would be quite sufficient.” Or, he might even be expected to say, “Oh for a second offence I should get eighteen. Would you prefer it if I also lowered my trousers and underpants?”
The headmaster did not expect a reply. He took his aim, lifted the cane away from the stretched buttocks so that it made an arc and brought it bouncing down with much vigour do that it bit deep into Jessop’s bottom. The boy shut his teeth and screwed his eyes tightly shut, but beyond that he made no movement.
Dr Gerard watched thoughtfully. He admired a boy who could take a beating stoically. It made his job so much easier. He set cut number two thwacking into the very centre of both cheeks so that a dark welt immediately rose across the fleshiest part of Jessop’s bum. His knees buckled slightly with the fierce impact, but still the boy could take it. In truth, Jessop was no novice to the cane. His bottom was beaten on a regular basis. Rarely had the marks disappeared after a thrashing than he was presenting his bottom for punishment once again.
The echo of thwacks three and four delivered in quick succession echoed around the study. The headmaster paused to admire his handiwork. The marks of the cane were clearly visible embedded into the tight cloth of the short trousers. “Good aiming!” he silently congratulated himself.
Dr Gerard positioned his feet. When he had judged that the hurt was ebbing away from Jessop’s bottom: Swipe! The next cut struck home, maybe a half inch below the others; but there was still plenty of room on the boy’s bottom for lots more strokes. By the time he had finished the whole of Jessop’s bottom, from the top of the mounds, across the very apex of the cheeks and into the fleshiest underside where the bum nearly meets the thighs would be covered with perfectly parallel lines. That was only if the boy was able to maintain his position manfully under the onslaught.
Jessop rocked on the balls of his feet; his mouth opened and closed, but he made no sound. A sharp pain attacked his rear, but very quickly it turned to a warm glow.
Jessop had a high pain threshold. He could take a beating stoically. But Dr Gerard knew how to lay on a caning with some vim. The pain in Jessop’s backside mounted as each successive stroke connected with his jutting backside. His heart raced, blood coursed through his arteries, he found it difficult to catch his breath.
Whack! Whack! Whack! Dr Gerard’s heart raced, perspiration ran down his spine; he was finding it hard to catch his breath. Jessop wriggled his hips, his bum was on fire. This was one heck of a caning. He tensed, hoping he could withstand this onslaught. The cane tapped once more across his bottom. He took a deep breath.
Suddenly, the chimes of a doorbell rang out. Dr Gerard stopped mid-stoke. He harrumphed! Through his outstretched legs, Jessop watched as the headmaster shuffled to the window and ensuring he could not be seen from outside, he peered through. A man was standing at the front door, looking rather irate.
Mr Williams winced and turned to the boy who was still obediently touching his toes. “Did you park your car in front of number twenty-six again?” he groaned.
Picture credit: Unknown
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