The Scotch Whisky Mystery

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In February 2006 Mr R. A. F. Brightlington-Pugh, a former housemaster at the Ridgeway private boarding school in the west of England, passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of ninety-seven. Some years later, his great-great-great-great nephew found a leather-bound travelling chest containing diaries he had written during the 1930s and 1940s. This present story The Scotch whisky mystery was inspired by the diary entry for 11th November 1932.

Other diary stories here

 

The mystery of where the sixth form boys obtained their whisky has been solved at long last. It had been troubling me for many months. They thought I did not know they were taking nips after lights out. There is nothing that goes on in this house that I do not know about. Nothing. Sometimes, I believe it is better not to show one’s hand too early.

Whisky and all alcohol is naturally banned at Ridgeway, but the senior boys had a supply from somewhere. We are an isolated community and the boys are very conspicuous in the locale. The boys wear grey short trousers until they enter the sixth-form; no purveyor of alcoholic beverages could mistake them for anything other than schoolboys. Even the sixth formers dress in bright red blazers with white trimming and red-and-white-hooped school caps.

I was certain that nobody locally would knowingly supply my boys with firewater. I was, however, quite wrong. There was one person and he was I confess very adept at deceiving the school authorities.

I discovered it quite by accident. I had been to the senior common room and found I had forgotten my pen which I needed to correct some compositions. As I hurried down the passageway to my study I espied Tom Nedley, the baker’s boy. He had secreted under his jacket an empty Scotch whisky bottle. His stock in trade was loaves of bread and sticky buns; not booze. Something was afoot.

One need not be Sherlock Holmes to work it out. The idiot boy confessed under the mildest interrogation. He was the supplier to the sixth form. He brought to the school full bottles and later collected the empties. That way no evidence of illicit drinking would fall into the hands of we schoolmasters.

Tom is I suppose at least eighteen years old. I cannot be sure, but he stands at close to six foot and has a build that suggests he has worked manual labour for some time. He looks much older than that age. I know very little about him, except that he works in his father’s bakery and the family has been supplying the school since Noah was a lad.

What would his father say if the school cancelled its order and found a new baker for its needs?

“You have let your father down very badly,” I told him.

His ruddy face paled significantly. Some horror had struck him. “No, please don’t tell my dad,” he said. Then he positively wailed, “Ple-ase!”

Within minutes we were in my study and I was on the telephone to Mr Nedley. I could hear the alarm in his voice after I threatened to cancel the school’s order.

“Keep the boy there. I’ll be right over.”

Mr Nedley was true to his word. Within a quarter of an hour he stood in my study. Mr Nedley was his son’s father. Nobody who saw the two together could doubt it. They were like two peas in a pod, except that one was somewhat older than the other.

Tom quaked as his father entered the study. There is no other word for it. There was genuine fear.

I had no prior knowledge of Mr Nedley’s intentions. He was both young Tom’s employer and his father and legal guardian. I sat in my armchair and watched as events unfolded before me.

Mr Nedley’s face contorted with anger as his son confessed his misdeeds. He had supplied illicit alcohol to a variety of sixth-formers over the past months. He had received a generous “tip” with each delivery for his troubles. Yes, he confessed to his father, he knew he was breaking the school rules and the laws of Olde England itself.

That was enough for Mr Nedley. His son had erred and he had a father’s duty to punish him.

His eyes searched the room; until he found what he needed. He carried a straight-backed wooden chair from against the wall and placed it in the very centre of the study. Then, without saying a word to his son, he unbuckled his wide heavy leather belt and in one swift continuous movement pulled it through the loops on his thick serge trousers.

z used drawing belt hold (1b).jpg

He sat himself down on the wooden chair. Tom stood horror struck. Clearly he knew where this episode would end.

“Take down yer trousers and drawers and get across me knee.”

Tom shot a look across at me and then at his irate father. He said nothing, but the panic in his eyes said, “No, please, not in public.”

“Quickly, or I’ll do it fer yer.”

I watched impassively as the boy complied with his father’s instruction. First his thick grey worsted trousers fell to the ground. He hesitated significantly before sending his grimy grey woollen drawers in the same direction.

For a few moments he stood; his private parts on full display. His ruddy face was now scarlet.

“Over.” His father slapped his own thigh as if there were any doubt what he meant.

Tom lowered his vast frame across his father’s lap. At six-feet tall he made an imperfect fit. An over-the-knee spanking is best administered to a small child; not to a strapping eighteen-year-old. His knees were bent and his toes rested on the fairly worn rug. He placed the palms of his hands flat on the floor. His meaty bottom was raised at an angle against his father’s right knee.

In the time waiting for Mr Nedley to arrive I had contemplated what punishment young Tom should receive. I fully intended that the sixth-form boys would receive a severe beating with my special Malacca cane. It seemed only fair and appropriate that young Tom should receive similar treatment.

I had been prepared to offer one of the two crook-handled rattan canes that dangled from the hat stand in the corner of my study to Tom’s father. Indeed, I should have been prepared to administer the thrashing myself had Mr Nedley felt he did not have sufficient expertise to wield a cane effectively.

I watched as Mr Nedley trebled up his thick heavy leather belt. I am an exponent of corporal punishment. As a schoolmaster it is my duty to instil discipline in the young. I am the representative of authority; of law and order. As such it is entirely appropriate that I should deliver a beating at (quite literally) arm’s length. A boy prepares himself for a beating and I lash the cane into his backside. Our respective roles in this little ritual are clearly defined.

Corporal punishment delivered by a father to his son is altogether different. The spanking is part of a loving relationship and as such more intimacy is assuredly required. If I were to order a pupil (even the most junior) across my knee eyebrows would be raised. The relationship between schoolmaster and pupil is not at all intimate. The boy most of all would resent the imposition.

I once had a colleague who told me that when he was a schoolboy a certain master would always punish his charges with an over-the-knee spanking. He was last dealt with in such a way when he was aged eighteen. He had been required to lower his trousers and underwear and lay across the master’s lap to allow him to slap the palm of his hand into his naked bottom.

A realist would say that a hand spanking could never hurt nearly as much as a swishing with a rattan cane and therefore the boys should have been grateful to receive a lesser punishment. The boys did not see it this way. Their dignity suffered. A caning was a “manly” punishment; a spanking should be confined to the nursery.

I had never before witnessed a spanking, but it was clear this was not new territory for Tom and his father. The boy lay submissively, his head held so low that he was able to look underneath the chair and observe the trousers and underwear bunched at his own feet. Mr Nedley took hold of the tail of his son’s shirt and tucked it up his back so it was away from the buttocks. Then slowly and deliberately he rolled up the shirtsleeve on his own right arm so that any swing he might make with the leather belt would be unhindered.

Then, without warning he lashed the thick leather belt into Tom’s naked haunches. A sunset stripe appeared immediately; followed by another and then another as Mr Nedley set about covering every square inch of his son’s bottom.

The boy scrunched up his face to absorb the pain. His mouth opened and closed silently, rather like that of a goldfish. But, he made no sound. His father set about his task at a rhythmic pace and soon two meaty cheeks were the colour of a good Burgundy. From my vantage point on the armchair I could tell Tom must be in considerable pain. The flesh on his buttocks looked scorched.

Sweat soaked Mr Nedley’s grubby cotton shirt as he continued to pound his leather strap up and down; up and down. Satisfied that there was no part of the boy’s bottom unbranded he turned his attention to the back of the teenager’s thighs. That part of the anatomy is especially sensitive and the boy wriggled and squirmed a little in response to the sting of the strap.

At no point did Tom move the palms of his hands from the floor. He made no attempt to resist the ministrations of his father. He was as submissive as any one of my schoolboys when required to present themselves to me for a thrashing. I admired the boy’s fortitude.

In no time Tom’s face was as red as his backside. The leathering was having its desired effect. But Mr Nedley was not yet ready to conclude the spanking. With renewed vigour he took his belt once more around the circuit; smacking it into every part of the boy’s bottom; from the top of the curves, across the fleshiest part of the buttocks and into the crease at the under-cheeks where the rear end meets the thighs.

Then and only then was Mr Nedley satisfied.

There was no lecture. All he said was the single word, “Up.” The boy sprang to his feet and without waiting for permission he whipped up his underwear and trousers. Within seconds he was once again fully dressed.

Since we were in my study I felt the need to say something that might conclude the matter. I assured Mr Nedley that I had no intention of stopping further bakery orders. As far as I was concerned the boy had transgressed and he had accepted his just punishment. We could all move on now.

I did however warn young Tom that if he ever dared to supply my boys with whisky or any other alcohol I would personally see to it that he received a severe swishing with one of my special Malacca canes.

He murmured something that might have been, “Sorry, Sir,” and the pair of them went on their way.

All that was now left for me to do was to decide whether or not when the sixth formers attended my study later that day I would require them to lower their trousers and underwear.

 

Picture credit: Endart

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The fire-raiser

A walk in the valley

Max of the ‘Champion’ 6. His Lordship

 

More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website

Charles Hamilton the Second

charleshamiltonthesecond@gmail.com

Saturday School

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In February 2006 Mr R. A. T. Brightlington-Pugh, a former housemaster at the Ridgeway private boarding school in the west of England, passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of ninety-seven. Some years later, his great-great-great-great nephew found a leather-bound travelling chest containing diaries he had written during the 1930s and 1940s. This present story was inspired by the diary entry for 14th April 1936.

Other diary stories here

 

I had always thought schoolboys lived in dread of the cane and that it was the three-feet of swishy rattan that kept them in order. I believed they would obey any rule or instruction to avoid being ordered to present their backside for chastisement.

In my own case a caning is an awesome event. After six-of-the-best from me a boy leaves my study in some distress. Undoubtedly his backside would be severely bruised and sometimes, when I have administered a particularly severe thrashing, he would have grazes and cuts on his buttocks.

No schoolboy, I had thought, would want a caning if he could possible avoid it. I had not, however, reckoned with Green of the Upper Sixth. He visited my study at lunchtime last Thursday with what he termed “a proposition.”

There was a confident knock on my door which I had not been expecting. It is true that one boy or another – and sometimes more – would be summoned to attend my study most lunchtimes. Today had been no exception. I had dealt with two fourteen-year-old boys from the Remove form. They had been caught in Wringleton Wood. The headmaster had declared the place out of bounds to boys for reasons that I could not properly fathom. But, rules are rules and if a boy breaks bounds he had better not get caught.

They each took their Six like the gentlemen they undoubtedly are.

I had not expected Green and was a little irritated when he appeared uninvited. He had disturbed my reading of the Daily Mail newspaper.

I called him to enter and he stood before me confidently. Usually, a boy in my study would exhibit an overwhelming interest in the pattern on the rug beneath his feet, or alternatively he would be intrigued by the bookshelf behind my desk. Some boys would be unable to turn their attention away from the hat stand in the corner of the room and the two crook-handled canes that hang there.

Green did none of these things; he looked me straight in the eye and said what he had come to say. Green is eighteen-years-old and like all boys at the school who are not in the lower forms, he wears the Ridgeway uniform of dark-grey trousers, a bright red woollen blazer with white edging and a red-and-white-hooped cap.

Green had made a particular effort with his uniform. The three buttons on his blazer were fastened; his tie was tightly knotted. His trousers had been brushed and looked from a distance at least to be as new.

Green has always been a bit of a charmer. His open face is often covered with freckles; his fair hair was today neatly combed and hidden underneath his school cap. He is an athletic boy and something of a star of the school’s association football team.

Association football was the subject that had brought him to me.

He launched into what I supposed was a rehearsed speech. He had, he told me, been misbehaving in class and as a result landed himself with a spot in Saturday School. Saturday School as the name surely demonstrates is a school session that is held on Saturdays for misbehaving boys. Saturday for everyone else is a day of leisure.

Green’s pale blue eyes bore into me as he made his case. This coming Saturday was the semi-finals of the inter-schools’ association football knock-out cup. Ridgway, he assured me, were “in with a chance” of beating rivals Witchdale and securing a place in the final.

This could only be achieved, he averred, if he took up his usual place at inside-right in the team. Alas, for Green, the match coincided with Saturday School. If he were made to attend detention, he would miss the match and Ridgeway’s chances of cup glory would be no more.

I was startled by the boy’s arrogance, but that was as nothing compared to what he said next.

“So Sir, I wish to have my detention caned-off.”

My brows must have knotted betraying my lack of understanding, for he continued. “Caned-off, Sir. If I could be caned instead of attending detention …” He trailed off as he saw the look of astonishment in my face.

Caned-off! What a preposterous suggestion. It was not for a boy to decide his own punishment. What on earth would be the point of that?

I could have caned him there and then for his impudence and still insisted he attend Saturday School. Instead, I sent him on his way with merely a flea in his ear and returned to my newspaper. Perhaps, I had to concede, my canings are not quite as awesome as I had supposed.

I did not think of the matter again until earlier this evening. I had spent the morning in the nearby town and followed my shopping expedition with a stroll in Wringleton Wood. I had quite forgotten that the association football match was to take place today.

I was reminded of the fact by Wilson, a junior colleague. It had been his misfortune to be assigned to supervise Saturday School. Green, he told me, had not attended. His inquiries soon unearthed the information that the wretched boy had been seen boarding the motor coach that transported the association football team to its match.

I am not a man given over to temper. It is true that just like the next man I can become angry at times. I do not, however, rant and rave or behave in ways that later I might regret. When the need arises I show my anger calmly, as Green was to discover.

I had an hour or so to prepare for the boy’s return to the school. I used the time wisely. I spoke with Mr Anderson, the school porter, who assured me he would be able to assist.

It was nearly eight in the evening when Green tapped on the door of my study. It was not the same self-confident Green who had attended on Thursday. His blazer was unbuttoned; his tie was loose. His school cap was nowhere to be seen.

His usual open and cheerful face was grim. The day had been a disaster for him. Ridgeway had been trounced in the game, going down by four goals to nil. Now, to round off it all off he was appearing before his housemaster to explain his absence from Saturday School.

There was not much to say. He was clearly guilty as charged. Corporal punishment was of course imminent. Green undoubtedly expected a caning. It was after all what he had wanted when he asked for his detention to be caned-off.

“Remove your blazer, Green and hang it on the hook on the study door.” Green had been a frequent visitor to my study and he knew the ritual that preceded a caning. Soon he would expect to be face down across my desk with his arms stretched ahead of him and his backside pointing at me.

He removed his blazer and turned back to face me. The puzzlement on his face was evident. He watched me take two wooden chairs and place them in the centre of the room back-to-back. Satisfied by the re-arrangement of the furniture, I ambled to the other side of the study and picked up from an empty bookshelf a dusty sack. The contents bulged but it was surprisingly lightweight. Green’s pale blue eyes burned into me as he studied my every movement.

I placed the sack on my desk, opened its neck and reached in. Green’s face blanched as he realised what was emerging from the sack. It was a freshly-made birch rod. Mr Anderson had made a splendid job of it. He had found the leafless branches at Wringleton Wood. He cut eight of them so they were three feet long and tightly bound them at the base with twine. Usually, a birch rod would be soaked in brine for as long as possible to ensure the suppleness of the rods and the effectiveness of the sting they would inflict on bared flesh.

I had considered delaying Green’s punishment for a day to allow the birch to soak overnight, but I always prefer to administer punishment as soon after the crime is committed as possible.

“Remove your trousers and underwear, Green,” I intoned. I do not believe I have ever seen a schoolboy look so horrified. “B..b..” he tried to speak, but really what was there for him to say?

“Please, let us do this without fuss.” I had no pity for the boy, he deserved everything that I intended to deliver. He would not be the first boy at Ridgeway to be birched. I knew from experience that boy’s believed a birching to be an extreme punishment. In fact, I have it on good authority that a birching hurts a lot less than a traditional caning with a rattan rod. It hurts a great deal, but the birch delivers a different pain to the cane. The rattan would slice into the bottom, cutting a single welt with each rise and fall, creating intense agony where the rod landed. The birch was different; the boy’s bottom would be on fire, but it would feel as if a white-hot egg-whisk had been pressed into his flesh.

The other difference is that a birch is only effective if it is swished into a bared bottom.

Green stood motionless as if he had failed to hear my command. I repeated it. “Take off your trousers and underwear.” I hoped the boy would be man enough to comply. I know that boys do not like to expose their bare bottoms to schoolmasters, but that is not my problem. If a boy behaves such that he deserves a thrashing bare, he has only himself to blame.

The eighteen-year-old’s hands fumbled at the buttons of his trousers. They fitted him well and he needed no belt or braces to hold them up. Once loosened they fell down his thighs and snagged to a halt at his knees, before slowly slithering to his feet.

“Step out of them, Green.”

As if in a trance, he lifted first his left foot and then his right and stepped clear of the trousers. He was now standing before me in his underwear. He wore modern drawers that fastened at the waist; it would be easy to remove them. But the boy needed to demonstrate the will to comply with my instruction.

He remained silent, but his eyes pleaded with me for mercy. Please, he seemed to be saying, do not make me expose myself to you.

I was in no mood for mercy. “Take down your drawers, Green.”

His face was that of a ghost. He closed his eyes tight and placed his thumbs in the waistband of the drawers. They were soon at his feet. Unbidden, he stepped out of those too. He clasped both hands in front of his privates. His eyes were still closed as he stood trembling awaiting my further instruction.

“Kneel on one chair and reach over the back and grip the seat of the other.” It was a standard position for a caning. Many of my colleagues preferred the two-chairs technique because it could present the boy’s posterior at the perfect angle if you wanted to slash it rather like a batsman at cricket slogging a ball to the boundary for four runs.

I admit now that I was relieved when Green complied with my instruction. I had been unsure that he would be brave enough to do so and I had instructed Mr Anderson to wait in an adjoining room should I need his assistance to hold the boy down.

Green kneeled, his stomach resting against the backs of the chairs with his bared bottom raised in the air. Slowly and with some ceremony I took hold of the tail of the boy’s shirt and rolled it up his back. I was now staring at a considerable are of naked flesh from the boy’s shoulders to below his knees where his socks were slumped.

 

The boy gripped the edge of the wooden seat and flexed his buttocks a little in anticipation of the agony he expected as the rods struck home. I measured my distance and swung the birch round my head and brought it down with a terrific upper-cut on the Green’s naked flesh. The hairless buttocks were scarred with dozens of thin white lines; narrow welts were rising where the birch twigs connected with the boy’s fleshy haunches.

z used birch and marks sting (1)

The birch swished again; Green screwed his eyes tight and stifled the yell I knew he so desperately wanted to make. He was a trooper. He would not let himself down: he would not give me the satisfaction of seeing him in pain.

Swish! Swish! Sweat poured from his body, down his half-naked back and into the crack between his cheeks. There were dozens of lines across his bottom, arranged neatly from left to right and from the top of the bottom where they meet the spine to under the curves close to the thighs. Every square inch of his rear end was scarred.

The sixth-former wriggled his body from left to right, as he struggled to remain in position, prostrate across the wooden chairs with his bared bottom still pointing submissively at me.

Swish! the hardest cut yet and the boy’s response was to beat his knees up and down against the wooden chair. Tears were now forming behind his eyes.

I lashed down two more strokes with full force. That did it: the skin started to open. Soon blood would seep through. Green’s scream of agony echoed around the study and no doubt could be heard as far away as study hall.

“Right boy, stand up.” It was over: Green had survived. Slowly, he relaxed his grip on the chair and raised himself to his feet. Instinctively, his hands shot to his buttocks to gently rub against the dozens of raised stripes that decorated them.

Unsteadily, he retrieved his drawers and gingerly stepped into them, all the time avoiding looking at me. Soon his trousers were in their rightful place.

“Dismissed.” I had no desire to prolong this meeting. The boy had transgressed; he had been punished most severely. The matter was now closed. We should all get on with our lives.

He limped from the room, pausing only to unhook his blazer from the door.

Picture credit: Sting Pictures

 

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Changed Times 6. Birched live on TV

 

 

More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website

 Charles Hamilton the Second

charleshamiltonthesecond@gmail.com

Called in for a Caning

new story 2

In February 2006 Mr R. A. F. Brightlington-Pugh, a former housemaster at the Ridgeway private boarding school in the west of England, passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of ninety-seven. Some years later, his great-great-great-great nephew found a leather-bound travelling chest containing diaries he had written during the 1930s and 1940s. This present story Called in for a Caning was inspired by the diary entry for 14th July 1939.

Other diary stories here

z used pyjamas up contrite armchair london

One supposes that Wilkins thought it was a spiffing good idea at the time. It must have seemed like a jolly good jape. He must have expected the other fellows in the sixth-form to think of him as a hero. I expect he changed his mind after I called him in for a caning.

Can there ever have been another schoolboy in all the land in all of history who visited his housemaster’s study on the very last evening of his school career for a farewell six of the best? That was Wilkins. Tomorrow he and his fellow senior boys will for the last time take the up train away from Ridgeway never to return. Their days as schoolboys ended forever.

Wilkins is a darned fool and he deserved everything he received.

As far as I can tell it started three days ago when Wilkins, who considers himself both an artist and a clown, chose to combine both attributes. He drew a caricature of a schoolmaster resplendent in academic cap and gown that had a very passable likeness to myself. The figure was brandishing a crook-handled cane with (I must relate) a rather demented expression on his face. If that had been the be all and end all of the matter I might have let it rest. I am not a man lacking humour. I could have passed the drawing off as a piece of end of term ragging. One is allowed to let one’s hair down (as I believe the current vulgarism has it) just before the hols.

Alas, there was more to the drawing than simply an over-excited schoolmaster. For, included in the picture was another figure. This one – a boy, clearly a sixth-former, and I believe intended to be a likeness of Dewhurst one of the top scholars in his set ­– was shown bending across the back of a rather worn armchair. It was clearly intended to represent a scene in my study. There can hardly be a boy in my House who has not had close contact with that particular piece of furniture at some time. Indeed, one or two of the senior boys have more than a passing acquaintance with that chair.

One might have left it there. Visits to the housemaster’s study for a beating are part of a schoolboy’s life. I know such experiences stay with many ‘old boys’ long after they have departed school and made their way in the world. Indeed, on Founder’s Day when many of them return to Ridgeway I have on occasion been approached with the request to administer to them six-of-the-best for old time’s sake.

But I digress. It is true that Wilkins’s caricature showed myself beating a boy. But that alone was not the reason why I summoned the boy to my study. His depiction went a little further. For in Wilkin’s imagination Dewhurst was bent across the chair his trousers at his ankles and underwear at the knees and I was flogging his bared buttocks with my cane. The result of my endeavour was clearly visible across the cheeks of the submissive boy.

And the expression on my face was not meant to be ambiguous: I was enjoying myself thoroughly.

I have no idea if Wilkins expected to get away with this outrage. I understand the drawing circulated freely among the sixth-form boys and I have no doubt to other forms beyond. It would be only a matter of time before the identity of the artist became widely known. It is possible that Wilkins intended to be found out; why would such a talented artist hide his light under a bushel? There is no glory in anonymity.

It was my junior colleague Mr Mainwaring who drew my attention to the outrage. He had intercepted the caricature’s circulation among the cricket First XI. It was then but a matter of time before the full story emerged. It was entirely correct of Mainwaring to report the matter to myself, but did I detect a certain curling of his lip as he handed it to me? I have seen that look of insolence with the boys many times. Is Mainwaring himself in need of a trip across my armchair?

Wilkins was the culprit. He knew that I knew, but I resolved to keep my powder dry. I would not immediately call him in for a caning. Let him wait; he could stew a while. He might even start to believe that no retribution was coming. Poor fool.

I am not generally a vindictive man. Generally when a boy is discovered misbehaving I deal with the matter promptly. “Bend over that chair. Head low, bottom high, feet apart.” Then swipe, swipe, swipe – six stingers across the stretched backside. Then, “Stand up boy. Now get out.” It is over in a trice. Crime committed; punishment accepted and we both get on with our lives.

Not so with Wilkins. There were still two days to go before his final night at Ridgeway. I would bide my time. At last as the boys were changing into pyjamas minutes before lights out, I sent an emissary to the senior boys’ dorm. “Wilkins attend Mr Brightlington-Pugh’s study.” Naturally, I was not present when the message was delivered, but I expect it was received with dismay. So, it was not to be, Wilkins had not been excused. “Hard luck, Wilkey,” his fellows would have commiserated with him, while quietly relishing that one of their own was about to receive a severe bowing. Boys can be cruel creatures.

“Attend at once,” the message was clear, “In your pyjamas.”

It was an early summer evening and most of the boys’ clothes were already packed away in trunks ahead of tomorrow’s journeys home. Wilkin had no dressing gown so appeared at my door dressed only in his regulation grey-and-white-striped pyjamas and house shoes. His rat-a-tat knock was confident, defiant even. He knew why he had been called in, there was no doubt in his mind that this was not a social visit. I had not asked him to drop by so that I could bid him farewell and offer my felicitations for a successful future.

“Enter!” I growled. The door sprung open and Wilkins appeared. He is a tall athletically built eighteen-year-old boy, who stands an inch or so taller than myself. Like his fellows, his hair is cut very short. His face is a little scarred by spots and there are signs around his upper lip that he might soon need to start shaving. Despite these outward appearances that he is a man he is decidedly nothing of the thing. He is a boy. Legally he becomes a man when he attains twenty-one and even then I have my doubts that many boys are truly ready for manhood even at that age.

Here at Ridgewood we insist that all pupils wear smart short trousers as part of their school uniform until they attain the age of sixteen and enter the sixth-form. Personally, I should be very content if they continued to wear short trousers until the day they left school in their nineteenth year. A Ridgeway boy is instantly recognisable in the locale. In additional to the dark-grey short trousers that reach to an inch above the knee, he wears a bright red woollen blazer with white edging; a red-and-white-hooped cap and grey knee socks with red tops.

I beckoned Wilkins into the study. I waved the offending caricature at him, rather as Mr Chamberlain did with his famous piece of paper declaring peace in our time. I had no message of peace for Wilkins; far from it. I accused him of being its architect and he immediately confessed his crime. I will say this for a Ridgeway boy, he is an honourable chap. It is undoubtedly true that he will try to break each and every rule we set for him and many times they escape undetected. However, if they are caught, they make no complaint and accept their punishment.

I had rehearsed a little something to express my displeasure with the boy’s insolence.  Disrespect; Impudence; Impertinence; were some of the words I threw at him. I acknowledge I had consulted a thesaurus earlier in the day. I make my own confession now; I have when occasion dictates a little of the ham actor in me.

Wilkins took it all on the chin. He stood on the worn rug feet slightly apart, hands behind his back, his head a little bowed and brow furrowed. His temples shone with perspiration. I jawed him for a while and then the case for the prosecution completed, I allowed him to speak in defence. He had nothing to say in mitigation and in a rather half-hearted way, he said he was sorry.

“Bah!” I ejaculated. “Sorry! Yes, Wilkins. Sorry! You soon shall be.” I hauled myself from my chair and conscious that the boy’s eyes were following me nervously I ambled across my study towards a hat stand in the corner. I always have two crook-handled canes dangling from it, so that I am constantly ready for action as it were. Earlier, I had hung my special Malacca cane there. This cane although no longer or thicker than my others is a rod of great density. It will pack a punch like no other. To be beaten with this is an awesome experience, even for the most battle-hardened senior boy such as Wilkins.

I reached up and took down the Malacca. I tuned to face Wilkins, his hazel eyes sparkled, his face paled. I flexed the cane between my hands thereby demonstrating its extreme flexibility. Then I swished it through empty air. It made a terrific whoosh! as it flew. This little pantomime served no practical purpose, I was already acutely aware of the rod’s properties. As I say, I do have a bit of the ham actor about me.

I swished the cane once more and pointed it at one of the two armchairs in my study. This one was the older of the two, the upholstery was worn across the back and so was the cushion; generations of schoolboys had leaned over that chair and gripped the seat for all they were worth. Now it was the turn of Wilkins to uphold that tradition.

The eighteen-year-old was no stranger to my study, nor my rituals. Without further instruction, he took the four paces necessary to reach the chair, I watched him take a deep breath, then he rubbed the palms of his hands together before leaning forward. He placed his head low and his bottom high then he spread his feet thereby offering his pyjama-covered backside at a perfect angle to receive the attention of my cane. I had to admire his fortitude. He was ready to accept just punishment. I took a moment to admire the tableau. Wilkins is a star of both our rugby and cricket teams, he is quite the athlete. His body is firm and his limbs are loose. In this position, his firm buttocks stretched against the cotton pyjama bottoms seemingly lifting and separating each cheek. The muscles in his thighs emphasised the roundness of his bottom. He stared down at the seat cushion, breathing evenly, waiting patiently for me to do my duty.

I fingered the cane and once more flexed it into a bow. I was ready to go. I took up a position about three feet to his left (a cane’s length) and gently tapped the Malacca across the very centre of his bottom, a half inch or so below the highest point of his mounds. I tapped some more, perfecting my aim. I was about to raise the cane to then bring it swiping down with maximum force when I stopped myself short. An idea had taken me.

“Stand up Wilkins!” I could see the look of astonishment in the boy’s still sparkling eyes. He pulled himself to his feet, his puzzlement evident on all his features. I swiped the cane through the air. I confess that my heart was thumping and my throat was more than a little dry. I croaked at Wilkins, “I think the seriousness of your offence is such that an exemplary punishment is called for.” I saw the boy’s face fall. I do believe he was one step ahead of me and had guessed my intention.

“Lower your pyjama bottoms Wilkins and step out of them.” I swear the sound of his gulp could be heard in the quadrangle outside of my study. His mind raced. I believe I could read some of what he was thinking. A bare-bottomed thrashing! On his final evening at school. For a second he contemplated a refusal. If he had said No! what would I have then done? He is undoubtedly bigger and stronger than I. He would win a brawl with ease. I would be left humiliated; my only recourse would be to ask the headmaster to expel him. What a humiliation that would be (for me)! Wilkins is due to leave Ridgeway tomorrow, he has already taken his examinations, expulsion would have no consequences for him.

I swiped the cane down hard across the apex of the chair. “Pyjama bottoms down. Step out of them. Bend over!” I made the command with more confidence that I actually felt. Wilkins bit down into his bottom lip, then not looking at me, he fumbled with the drawstring of his pyjamas. It took longer than one might expect for him to complete the task. The pyjamas tumbled to his feet and without hesitation he stepped out of them. He turned and dived across the back of the chair with alacrity. He wriggled into position, head low, bottom high, feet apart. I took three deep breathes. I was back in control.

Writing this diary less than an hour later I can reflect almost soberly (well, I have had a glass of whisky) that all is well with the world order. Wilkins, a schoolboy, understands his place. That is to obey his superiors (his “betters” as the lower classes like to say) without question.

Wilkins presented his bared bottom to me for punishment. Slowly and methodically I placed six cuts across the quivering meat. I started in the very centre of his cheeks across the highest peaks, then I struck slightly below and then slightly above that first marker. By the time I was finished he had six deep stripes running in parallel across his posterior in a group about two inches wide. If I may say so myself it was an expertly administered thrashing. Of course, Wilkins played his part; his stoicism and ability to stay in position, bottom raised even under such terrible fire, made my task that much easier.

With the six-of-the-best duly delivered, I ordered him to stand, he quickly retrieved his pyjama bottoms, put them on and tied himself up. I believe I detected a hint of admiration behind his by now very watery hazel eyes. I offered him my hand to shake. I think he deserved that. He had taken his beating like a man. I rather think I shall miss Wilkins.

I will keep his caricature with my other treasured memories of Ridgeway.

 

Picture credit: CP Services London

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The Poker School

new story 2

In February 2006 Mr R. A. F. Brightlington-Pugh, a former housemaster at the Ridgeway private boarding school in the west of England, passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of ninety-seven. Some years later, his great-great-great-great nephew found a leather-bound travelling chest containing diaries he had written during the 1930s and 1940s. This present story The Poker Game was inspired by the diary entry for 3rd February 1938.

z used cane pyjamas up armchair school london (2)

All schoolboys like to think that they are adults and should be treated accordingly. It is the schoolmaster’s duty to disabuse them of this notion and be a constant reminder that they are indeed children who must subordinate themselves to the will of their elders.

It was for this reason that Ridgeway insisted that all its pupils wore smart short trousers as part of their school uniform until they attained the age of sixteen and entered the sixth-form. Personally, I should be very content if they continued to wear short trousers until the day they left school in their nineteenth year.

A Ridgeway boy is instantly recognisable in the locale. In additional to the dark-grey short trousers that reach to an inch above the knee, he wears a bright red woollen blazer with white edging; a red-and-white-hooped cap and grey knee socks with red tops.

Despite, all our attempts to remind the boys they are but children some continue to defy us. Thus it was that this evening I chanced upon the sixth-form poker game.

I am not in the habit of patrolling the house after lights out. There is a prefect body whose duty is to keep good order in the house. To that end they are expected to account that each boy is safely tucked up in his bed before they too retire for the night.

This evening I was feeling particularly irritable. There was nothing to listen to on the wireless save for Bandwagon, a humorous programme (or so says my copy of the Radio Times). I could bear Arthur Askey and Stinker Murdoch no longer, so decided on a tour of the house.

All was quiet, as indeed it should be at this hour. I did not venture inside the dormitories; I trust my prefects to do their jobs properly. I was certain all would be well. For no particular reason that I can recall, I ventured down the passageway that led to the senior studies. I could tell at once something was amiss. A shaft of light gleamed beneath the door of number five. As I approached my nostrils were assailed by a familiar scent. An aroma that was unwelcome in the boys’ studies. It was the smell of cigarette smoke.

I gripped the handle and twisted it. The door would not budge. It was locked. There was some illegal activity afoot. I hammered the palm of my hand against the heavy wooden panel.

Inside the study a little poker party was suddenly startled. Tracey jumped up, his hand of cards slipping from his fingers. “What the …” he exclaimed.

Wright, Amber and Prior were all on their feet. That sound could mean only one thing: a master had discovered their game.

“What dashed bad luck,” breathed Wright. “Quick get the cards out of sight.”

I banged again, somewhat louder this time. “Open up in there! Open up I say!”

“The smoke; we can’t clear the smoke,” hissed Amber, waving his arms around like a demon.

“Keep the door locked Wright,” whispered Prior. “Tell him you’ve dropped the key to make us some time.”

I continued banging.

“All right Sir,” called out Wright in a shaky voice while his chums frantically hurried cards and cigarettes out of sight. “I … I’ve dropped the key.”

I called out, “You will open this door immediately Wright. At once, or the consequences for you all will be very grave indeed.”

I heard the scraping of the key in the lock and slowly the door eased ajar; but only by an inch. I pushed it open and strode into the study.

Four ashen-faced eighteen-year-old boys stood before me. They were dressed in their regulation grey-and-white-striped pyjamas. The evidence of their crimes lay all around them. A deck of playing cards and hastily extinguished cigarettes.

There was very little to say. They had been caught in the act.

“Attend my study immediately. Wait outside for my arrival.”

Such a command could mean only one thing: a beating was imminent.

I watched four sorrowful schoolboys as they trudged down the passageway. I put the cigarettes in my pocket; I would smoke them myself later. I searched the room half-expecting to find a whisky bottle secreted somewhere, but there was none.

Minutes later I joined the four miscreants at my study. They stood in the passageway facing the wall with their hands on their heads. I had not instructed this, but it was a standard requirement of any boy sent to attend a housemaster’s study. These four knew the drill. There was not a bottom before me that I had not thrashed before.

I called the four into my study and they stood in front of my leather-topped desk. Like so many schoolboys in their situation they took an intense interest in the rug beneath their feet. I instructed them to look at me and I jawed them. I did not take too long; we all knew why we were there.

As any schoolmaster should attest, the cane is a highly efficient tool of punishment. No caned boy can be in any doubt of his schoolmaster’s disapproval. His buttocks will glow and so they should. The punishment is delivered and is then over within minutes; then we all move on with our lives.

I knew each of the four boys before me intimately. They were all similarly culpable in this evening’s crime. None of them was a leader and none the led. I could treat them all equally – and that was precisely what I did.

Hardly a day goes by without my caning a boy. My preferred method is to make him lay face down across the back of my worn armchair; his arms stretched ahead of him; his feet firmly planted eighteen inches apart on the ground and his bottom raised. The buttocks are presented at the perfect angle to receive swipes from my cane across the fleshiest part of the posterior.

I reached across to the hat stand that stood in the corner of the study. I always have at least two canes – one thick and one thin – dangling ready for action.

“Wright,” I called, “Bend over the chair.”

Wright would not catch my eye, even though this was hardly a new experience for the eighteen-year-old. He stepped forward and rather like a diver going into an icy pond he flopped forward and held on to the arms of the chair.

“Come now Wright,” I sighed, “You have been here often enough. You know the form: head low, bottom high, feet apart.” He wriggled about a bit until he was presented to my satisfaction.

I choose the thicker of the two canes, flexed it between my hands, and tapped Wright gently across the very centre of his bottom. Six strokes of the cane fell, hard, one after another.  Every one was a hefty lash; but no sound came from Wright. When I gave permission, he rose from the desk, his face pale, and his eyes glinting. He resumed his position alongside his fellow poker players.

“Amber, step forward.”

The boys were stoical, but Amber, who it must be reported had a very meaty backside, wriggled a little as each stroke fell. I do not play games when I cane a boy. Each swipe fell with great force. It was as if I were beating a carpet.

Tears were forming behind Amber’s eyes when he rose from the desk. I could see he desperately wished to rub at his fleshy behind, but such a thing is not permitted. There is some unwritten code: no rubbing until you are out of the eyesight of the schoolmaster.

Prior was next. I had last thrashed the boy only the previous week. That had been for breaking bounds. I had laid it on him with terrific force; he was a recidivist and often skipped out of school. He must have a high tolerance for pain; it was as if he had hardly felt a thing. I had considered later that perhaps he had smuggled some padding beneath his trousers. This time with only his pyjama bottoms for protection there would be no doubt.

As had his fellows, Prior positioned himself without fuss. I saw him close his eyes and shut his teeth in anticipation of the searing pain he was about to endure.

A caning is really a competition of sorts between the master giving correction and the boy accepting it. One has to inflict; one has to endure. I must lay these strokes on the boys’ bottoms with all the skill I can muster. I must be firm; I must be precise. My job is to be the agent of authority. The boy’s job is to hold fast, without crying or begging to be let off. In short, to accept the discipline.

Prior behaved admirably. I could see welts forming under the thin cotton pyjamas. The thrashing must have hurt him terribly, but he showed little outward sign. When commanded, he rose and took his position alongside the others.

Tracey was last to go. He had witnessed the stoicism of his fellows. I do not know if this adds to the intensity of the occasion. Did knowing that the others had taken their beating well put additional pressure on a boy not to let himself down?

Tracey was over the chair in a trice. It was as if he were saying, “Go ahead, do your worst. I can take it.”

I did indeed do my worst; or do I mean my best? I delivered six of my very best across the most tender part of the boy’s bottom at the point where the under-curve of the cheeks met the thigh. Tracey’s body wriggled and writhed; his hips swayed and his feet marched up and down on the carpet. I heard him cough and splutter as he successfully stifled the yells he most certainly wanted to make.

It was over. I estimate it had taken no more than three minutes to put the boys through their paces. They stood before me with four pairs of blazing buttocks. I am not a cruel man, I knew they very much wanted to be on their way down to the lavatories where they would inspect the damage, admire my handiwork, and congratulate one another on their fortitude.

I sent them on their way. Later, I lit one of the confiscated cigarettes and returned to the wireless. A musical interlude was being broadcast. I leaned back in my armchair and blew smoke rings at the ceiling and reflected on my efforts – a very contented man indeed.

Picture Credit: CP Services London

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charleshamiltonthesecond@gmail.com