Sanderson bounced down the narrow passageway, feet slipping, shoulders hitting first one wall and then the next. He had to get away. Nobody must see him. Not in the state he was. If he rushed he could get to his study in time. Undetected.
Victory. He gripped the handle of the heavy door, it stuck a little so he gave it a kick with the sole of his foot. It flew open. He tumbled inside. Thank God his study mate was elsewhere. This was a private matter. He stood unsteady, catching his breath, desperately holding back the tears. His face burned, almost as much as his backside. He could barely contain his fury.
The humiliation. Sanderson, eighteen years old and a senior at St. Tom’s, whipped on the arse by a prefect. Bags down. Underpants down. Six of the best. Bare. He could strangle Tomkinson, the head boy, with his bare hands.
His head throbbed almost as much as his bum. Carefully, he loosened his bags and let them slip a little. Then, oh so gingerly, he eased his cotton undershorts, away from his savaged buttocks. He grimaced, they had stuck against a weeping welt. Six thick dark red stripes decorated his rear end. Each about a quarter of an inch thick, running in perfect parallel from left to right. An objective observer would say Tomkinson was an expert; the boy knew his business.
Sanderson fastened up his bags and gripped the edge of the study table, suddenly, unexpectedly, choked-up tears washed down his face as the events of that afternoon flashed through his mind.
It had started some days earlier. Tomkinson was newly appointed as Head Boy of St. Tom’s and eager to ingratiate himself with the headmaster who had himself recently been elevated to the position. Some stand had to be taken. Tomkinson needed to exert his authority. Old Bean (as the head was affectionately known by the boys) had a strong aversion to cigarette smoking. His loathing was not for him a personal matter. Smoking was (naturally) banned among the boys; he would have stopped masters puffing as well is he had been able, but that would be an imposition too far.
So, behold the word came from on high: a boy caught smoking (or indeed merely in possession of cigarettes) could expect the severest punishment. Now, there was not much new about Old Bean’s instruction. Schoolboys had been beaten since time immemorial for the offence. Tomkinson, in his eagerness to please, went a stage further. The rule would apply to any boy – junior, or senior. The Sixth-Form had been warned.
In later life Tomkinson would become a fine administrator in a far-flung British colony. He learned some of the techniques of using power at St. Tom’s. A squad of spies, of squealers if you will, fed him titbits of information.
So it was on the afternoon in question that Tomkinson raided Sanderson’s study. His nostrils flared as he sniffed the air for the tell-tale aroma. None; the study was clear. Driven by a determination that someone must suffer, he shrieked, “Open the cupboards, Sanderson. All of them.”
“Oh for the love of God! Tomkinson,” Sanderson leaned back in his armchair. “What’s this all about?”
“Do not take the Lord’s name in vain Sanderson. You know very well. Smoking.”
The eighteen-year-old blanched.
“If you do not open these cupboards, drawers too, I shall do it myself.” Not waiting for a response, he strode to an old worn cabinet and tugged open the door. Inside was a small wooden box of cigarettes, just as his spy had reported.
“If smoking is going on in this study, there’s going to be a whopping! Sanderson, are these cigarettes yours?”
“Certainly not!” answered Sanderson coolly. “I have no idea how they got there.”
“Very well!” said Tomkinson. “You deny it. The matter will have to go before the headmaster then! It’s between you two, and the Head will sift it out.”
He turned to the door.
“Hold on, Tomkinson!’? muttered Sanderson. His sallow face was pale. Sanderson of the Sixth did not want to go before the Head. Sanderson had too many shady secrets to keep, for that. Investigation once started might unearth other things more serious than smoking in the study. A fellow who continually, and with cynical indifference broke all the rules of the school, had to be careful.
Tomkinson looked round. “Hold on? he said. “What for?”
Sanderson gasped a little. “Look here, suppose a fellow had a box of cigarettes in his study?, he muttered. “No need to make a song and a dance about it. I daresay you could scare up a few in the Sixth, if you looked.”
“Possibly!” said Tomkinson. “If I find any in the Sixth, there will be trouble, same as if I find them in the Fifth! I’ve got certain duties to do, as a prefect, and I’m going to get them done. Were the cigarettes yours; yes or no?”
“Yes,” muttered Sanderson.
“That’s enough then! I’ve whopped a junior for smoking, if I let a senior off, I should be a rotter! Let’s cut along to my study, Sanderson.”
Stephen Sanderson stood facing him, his hands clenched. Sanderson was a senior, a Sixth-Form man, and it was unheard of for a senior to be told to bend over like a junior! The humiliation of it was almost more than Sanderson could bear.
“You can’t whop me, Tomkinson!’, he muttered thickly. “You know you can’t! A Sixth-Form man …”
Tomkinson curved the cane in his hands menacingly. “Will you bend over the chair?”
“You can call a Prefects’ Meeting and have me up!” muttered Sanderson. “I’ll stand for that! But …”
“You’ll bend over that chair, and take six just as if you were a sneaking smoky little tick in the Second Form!” said Tomkinson coolly. “And if you don’t do it, this instant, I’ll take you to the Head, and leave it to him. If you’d rather be sacked, you’ve got the choice.”
Sanderson gave him a long look. “But, darn it Tomkinson, this isn’t right!”
“Enough. Stop right there. I have given you every opportunity. Now, lower your bags and underwear.”
White as a sheet with rage and humiliation, Sanderson’s mouth gaped open.
“You have only yourself to blame, for this,” Tomkinson swiped the heavy crook-handled cane and pointed it at the dusty armchair.
Sanderson winced. The brute! Tomkinson was drunk with power.
“Tomkinson,” he muttered.
“Nothing for you to say.” interrupted the Head Boy as he swished the cane through the air.
A gasp came from Sanderson. In a fury he ripped down his own bags, leaving them in a heap at his feet. The ferocity of his anger blinded him as he sent his drawers in the same direction.
He dived over the back of the armchair.
Tomkinson stood his ground, waiting patiently for his fellow eighteen-year-old senior schoolboy to prepare himself. The boy’s buttocks were small and round and perfectly white. A tusk of dark hair crawled along his crack.
Tomkinson swiped the ashplant in the air. It came down with a loud whack on Stephen Sanderson’s naked haunches. A groan came from Sanderson. A dark red line furrowed both cheeks.
Sanderson set his face for the second stroke. Six strokes fell; six of the best. Sanderson remained motionless, bent over the chair, his face colourless with fury. He tried his hardest to keep back a sound; it was too bitterly humiliating to yell like a junior under the cane! But hard as he was by nature, he was not tough physically, and he could not bear pain. In spite of himself, he gave a yell at the fourth swipe, and a ringing howl at the fifth.
The study door opened, and Jackson, Tomkinson’s deputy, looked in. “What’s this howling row about?” asked Jackson staring.
“Get out!” snapped Tomkinson.
“Oh, my only hat!” gasped Jackson and he got out and went back to his study in a state of dazed amazement, to tell Potter and Greene that Tomkinson was whopping a Sixth Form man.
Whack! The last swipe fell followed by a howl from Sanderson. Tomkinson tucked the cane under his arm. “That’s a tip!” he said grimly. “I’ve had my eye on you a long time, Sanderson. You’ve got off with a whopping this time – next time you’ll go before the Head, and you know what that means.”
Sanderson stood and stared at him. Where it had once been ghostly white, his face now blazed scarlet. He dressed. He was hurt, and he wriggled painfully. But that was not the worst.
He had been “whopped” like a junior – he, a Sixth Form man, a senior! Jackson – that ass, Jackson – had actually witnessed the whopping, and would be talking of it up and down the passages and studies. All St. Tom’s would know about it in under an hour.
Sanderson clenched his hands with fury. He had not dared to resist. The penalty for punching Tomkinson would be the sack, short and sharp. Neither would it have helped him, for the stalwart Head Boy of St. Tom’s could have handled the weedy slacker almost like an infant. He dared not even think of standing up to Tomkinson in the gym with the gloves on; he could not have hoped to get the better in a scrap, and he hated getting hurt.
There was nothing he could do – nothing – but swallow his rage and humiliation, and “mind his step” in the future.
Picture credits: The Magnet
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second