Harry Clifton was in no hurry. He ambled across the quadrangle. It was a fine day in early summer. The sun shone. The sky was blue. It was all in all a beautiful day. Except is wasn’t a fine day. Not for Harry Clifton, the sixth-form pupil at St. Francis Independent Grammar School; the soon-to-be former pupil of said school. The final exams were only weeks away. Then freedom. The end of school. Whoever it was who said schooldays were the happiest days of your life was an ass. Surely, Harry Clifton supposed, things could only get better after St FIGS.
Harry Clifton was on to something there. He knew as sure as eggs was eggs that this present day could never count as one of the best of his life. Ha! He almost smiled the best. Not so much the best, but six-of-the-best. It was a weak joke, but it was the best that Harry Clifton could come up with. He passed through the entrance of Founder’s Building and into a short, dark passageway. He was answering the summons of his headmaster. Chaps were only called to the Beak for one reason and one reason alone. There could be no doubt about it. Harry Clifton was in for a bowing. A swishing. A caning. Six-of-the-best.
Harry Clifton knew this for certain because St FIGS was a traditional school: traditional curriculum, traditional uniform, traditional sports and, of course, traditional discipline. No matter how slowly he walked Harry Clifton would eventually reach the heavy oak door of the headmaster’s study. He might delay his ordeal by a few seconds, but he could not put it off forever. He paused outside the door and ran his hand through his unruly hair. He rubbed each shoe against the back of his trouser leg. They were far from shining, but they would have to do. He made sure all three buttons on his green-and-gold woollen blazer were correctly fastened. All was ship shape and Bristol fashion. He was under starter’s orders. Ready for the off. About to go over the top. He drew down a deep draught of air, formed a fist with his right hand, raised it, and with more confidence than he truly felt, he rapped on the door.
Silence. Nothing. He craned his neck and placed his ear closer to the door. Was the headmaster not at home? Had he been called away on an urgent mission? Did this spell a reprieve for Harry Clifton? No, the senior sixth-former considered. The Beak had probably not heard. He bunched his fist again and was about to have another go at the door when a clear, sonorous voice rang out from the other side, “Come!” The headmaster had heard all right, he was only playing his silly games.
Harry Clifton sucked in air once more, gripped the handle and pushed the heavy door open. He hesitated on the threshold of the study. “Come in boy, don’t dawdle,” the headmaster rasped. Harry Clifton jolted forward and landed in front of the headmaster’s vast walnut desk. “Pah! Close the door Clifton! Close the door,” the Beak thundered.
With that task completed Harry Clifton once more stood before the headmaster. The Beak presented an imposing character, drenched in ugliness. Standing, he made a tall, lank, almost skeletal figure. His gaunt face, was heavily lined. His aquiline nose and thin pointed chin made the appearance of a caricatured witch. He wheezed through his nose. His dark piercing eyes transfixed on the boy before him.
For his part Harry Clifton resolved not to meet that alarming gaze. He focused on a spot over the headmaster’s shoulder, at a hat stand in the corner of the room. It was an ancient beat-about piece of furniture, old enough to be steeped in the tradition of the school. It had served many headmasters at St FIGS over countless generations. The number of hats it had supported over the years was a matter lost to history. The present headmaster had an additional requirement for the furniture. Harry Clifton’s gaze transfixed on the three long, thin whippy rattan canes that dangled by their curved handles. Small and relatively unobtrusive though they were, to the boy standing awaiting punishment they dominated the study.
Harry Clifton swallowed hard. The canes were of differing thicknesses, densities and lengths but he knew with absolute certainty that in the hands of the headmaster any one of these rods would “take his backside off” as the schoolboy slang then circulating had it. Alongside the canes hung the headmaster’s black academic gown and the flat mortar-board cap, the official uniform of schoolmasters across the land. The badge of office. The seal of power.
Harry Clifton did not concentrate on his droning headmaster. The room was hot and airless and the monotonous voice was sleep-inducing. Suddenly there was silence. A long, pregnant pause. “Well boy!” the headmaster barked. Harry Clifton shook awake, the headmaster leaned from his chair forward over the large desk, his black piggy eyes blazed, “What have you to say for yourself?”
At a loss to the question he had been asked, Harry Clifton mumbled an all-purpose reply. Schoolboys up and down the land and throughout history when carpeted in the headmaster’s study were required to utter these words at some point in the proceedings, most often immediately before the real action began. “Sorry, Sir,” he coughed, his throat irritatingly dry.
“Bah!” the headmaster ejaculated and leaned back in his chair, his nose and chin quivering so that the points of each almost touched. “Not good enough, Clifton; not good enough.” Harry Clifton had never supposed it would be. He expected Six and he wished the headmaster would just get on with it. The school day was at an end and he was anxious to be away home. He had a date to meet the boys at The Three Fishers that evening and there was every chance to meet girls of a certain character.
The headmaster jawed on and on. Smoking. Smoking cigarettes, surely the biggest crime imaginable at a school. Why, the headmaster had only last week delivered another of his edicts. He cared little about the harmful effects of tobacco to one’s health. It is unlikely that he had ever read about the causes of cancer. Cigarettes were banned because he said so. It was an order. Orders were given by those on high and obeyed (unquestioned) by those below. The hierarchy of a school was beyond question. The headmaster’s word was law and if that law was broken there could be only one outcome. The punishment must fit the crime. If orders were not obeyed society would crumble; the country would go to the dogs. Anarchy would reign!
Harry Clifton had been smoking on and off since the age of eleven and by the age of eighteen had developed a ten cigarettes a day habit. No headmaster’s proclamation was going to alter that. The craving for nicotine far outweighed any danger of capture. It was just bad luck that Mr Hopkinson, the junior sports master, had carelessly left a gym sock behind after lessons that morning. Harry Clifton was caught cigarette in hand. Mr Hopkinson, whose contract of employment at the school had yet to be confirmed, was delighted at the opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty to the tradition of St FIGS.
The headmaster had finished his jawing. “Take off your blazer Clifton. Hang it there,” he curled his lips and cricked his neck in the general direction of the hat stand. Harry Clifton had not expected the palms of his hands to be sweating. He wiped them on his blazer and tackled the three buttons. As he lifted it onto the hat stand he observed the three whippy canes in close up. They really didn’t look so awesome. None was thicker than a pencil. Their dark yellow colouring made them look old and worn; they were warped through excessive use.
As he was doing this he was aware of noises behind him. Floorboards creaked; the headmaster was on the move. By the time Harry Clifton turned back to face into the study the Beak had moved an ancient, armless, straight-backed chair into the middle of the room. He sat down and wriggled his bony buttocks in an attempt to achieve comfort. He snapped his fingers and pointed to a spot on the worn rug close by himself. “Stand there boy,” he rasped. Harry Clifton stood for a moment enveloped in confusion. He had half-expected a chair to be placed in position, but then if the usual script was being played out he, Harry Clifton, would be bent across the thing; head low, bottom high, offering up his posterior to his tormentor’s cane.
But what was this? The headmaster glowered across the room. “Now!” he roared, since he was unable to ever speak with a natural voice. A bemused Harry Clifton shuffled forward until he stood a foot or two to the right of the headmaster. At this point, the Beak spread his legs offering the wretched sixth-former a bird’s-eye view of the Beak’s bony thighs and knees. Harry Clifton’s head swam with confusion, but things were about to get much worse.
The headmaster’s ugly, lined face looked up at the boy, his mouth cracked into a sneer, “Lower your trousers and bend over my knee,” he cackled. The sneer widened into a full-on smile, revealing a set of nicotine-stained teeth that many would describe as “tombstones.”
Harry Clifton’s own mouth gaped open. He uttered no words, for it was not his place to question his headmaster. His mouth opened and closed so he resembled a goldfish. This could not be happening. Trousers down. Bend over my knee. No, it should be, Bend over that chair. It’s six of the best for you m’lad. The world’s order was being turned upside down. What game did the headmaster think he was playing?
“I’m waiting,” the headmaster growled. “Bend over,” and he slapped the palm of his right hand against his knee in case there could be any doubt about his instruction. Harry Clifton knew his face had flushed bright red; sweat made the collar of his shirt stick to his neck. His palms were once again damp. What should he do? Lower your trousers and bend over my knee. The words pounded in his head. What should he do? What could he do?. A chap expected a caning at a time like this. Commit a felon, bend over, whack-whack-whack-whack-whack-whack. Stand up. Dismissed. All over. The punishment fits the crime. The world moves on.
But, Lower your trousers and bend over my knee. That was not cricket. That was a nursey spanking. Something a chap might have expected from Mother when aged six. What was the headmaster thinking?
A disinterested observer might say Harry Clifton should tell the headmaster all this. “I’ll take a caning Sir, even trousers down if you insist, but I’ll not be humiliated by going over your knee.” But could Harry Clifton, or indeed any schoolboy faced with a similar predicament, say this? Harry Clifton was a bright boy and he weighed up the consequences of disobedience in seconds. The headmaster had instructed him to take a punishment and no matter how bizarre that might be he had no choice – absolutely no choice – but to obey.
Failure to comply would lead to suspension, or possible expulsion from the school. He would not be allowed to take his exams. He hoped to attend college, or even university, but without qualifications that would be impossible. No university meant no career. A life of drudgery as a clerk in some accountant’s office would be the best he could look forward to. He had to take the right decision.
Harry Clifton bit down hard on his bottom lip. He avoided looking at his tormentor as he unbuckled his belt. His pale-grey trousers were loose fitting and once he had unbuttoned the fly they slipped down over his thighs and knees and travelled at speed to rest in a puddle over his black lace-up shoes. He stood before his headmaster in gleaming white cotton Y-front underpants. His equally bright white shirt was long enough to cover most of his buttocks. Harry Clifton stood modestly with his hands clasped across his private parts.
He was an enthusiastic rugby player and quite used to undressing in company. Of course, after a match the whole team would romp naked in the showers and changing room. But standing here like this, trousers at his ankles in front of his headmaster, prior to going across the Beak’s knees for a little-boy’s spanking was beyond humiliating. How the sixth-former hated the vile, ugly bully.
“Bend over.” The command was terse. Harry Clifton peered down at the headmaster’s knees. They were thin and bony and encased in smart, striped trousers with a crease sharp enough to cut through cheese. Harry sucked on his bottom lip and pondered for a moment. How exactly was this done? Was he expected to leap over the Beak’s body, as if flying over a vaulting horse in the gym, and then land face down? Should he ease himself down gently by resting the palms of his hands on the headmaster’s thighs to steady himself as he spread his body forward?
“Pah!” the headmaster misunderstanding Harry Clifton’s hesitation for reluctance gripped the eighteen-year-old by the left wrist and tugged him forward with such ferocity that the boy tumbled forward. He stretched his arms in front of himself to avoid crashing and dug his palms into the ground. His nose was inches from the rug. Like this his head was low and his bottom was raised high over the headmaster’s thigh. Harry Clifton’s legs dangled in mid-air.
It took a second or two for him to recapture his breath. He was a trifle dizzy. Being prostrate across a man’s knees was an unusual posture and gave a boy a distorted view of the world. It had literally been turned upside down. How different it was to preparing to receive a caning. Then, a chap was required to “bend over” but whether he was across a chair or a desk or simply touching toes he always kept on his feet; he was vertical as it were, if he chose he could see what was going on around him. There was little disorientation.
Going over-the-knee was altogether different. Harry Clifton could see nothing but the old rug beneath his face; bent at this angle it was nearby impossible for him to turn his head. He was extremely vulnerable. He could see little but his other senses were unimpaired. His crotch ached as the weight of his body pressed against the headmaster’s thighs. He heard the Beak wheezing and felt the Old Man’s rough hand grip the tail of his shirt and tug it half way up his back. Then, a hand gently caressed the seat of his underpants as it smoothed away creases, even though the Y-fronts already fitted snugly. The hand patted and preened. Then it tapped gently across the fleshiest part of the left cheek.
Suddenly. Spank! The hand swiped into the left buttock and then the right. Then it went high; then low. The headmaster smacked his rough hand with speed and force across Harry Clifton’s upturned buttocks. The boy stared down at the rug, his bemusement growing. He felt the hand strike his bottom again and again and again. The sound of hand hitting hard flesh resounded around the hot, airless study. It sounded like machinegun fire. The headmaster put all his beef into the spanking, delivering maybe eighty slaps in the first minute – and there were many more minutes to follow.
Harry Clifton lay face-down, head low, bottom high and let his headmaster get on with it. For he had quickly realised that a hand spanking did not hurt – even when delivered with vigour across the set of his tight, cotton underpants. Of course, he felt something. A tingling sensation. A slight warming of the flesh. But pain? No. A properly delivered six-of-the-best with any one of the three whippy, rattan canes that were at that moment still dangling from the hat stand could have had him howling. His bottom would feel like it had been beaten to become twice its natural size. Dark, vicious welts would throb beneath his underpants (even if he were allowed to keep his trousers up). The marks and associated bruises would last for days. He would display them proudly to the rugby boys in the showers.
But this? This over-the-knee spanking. Nothing. “My,” Harry Clifton pondered silently to himself, “I bet his hand is hurting more than my bum.” He almost smiled at the thought.
So, it went on. The headmaster spanked Harry Clifton on the seat of his underpants and the boy had to submissively allow him to do so. The headmaster was in control. There was peace in the nation. The Pound was sound. God was in his Heaven.
Picture credit: Sting Pictures
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Charles Hamilton the Second