He was about twenty years old; I was old enough to be his father. I was the coach at the Brocklehurst Cricket Club Colts – a rather archaic name for the youth team. I was a big cheese at the club on account of my time playing for the county side. It made me a “gentleman”. And, in cricketing circles in those days that meant a lot.
Robbie Renaud was a dish (I know it sounds a bit girly to say that but even the boys could see that). He stood about five-feet-ten with broad shoulders and narrow waist. He played a lot of cricket (naturally) but was also something of a long-distance runner. All that fresh air and exercise gave him a delicious peaches and cream complexion, overlaid with a sun tan. He loved to smile, a cheeky impish grin. His brown eyes shone constantly and his chestnut hair flopped wildly around his forehead, but never encroached over his ears. He could have been the poster-boy for all those young cricketers schoolboys loved to read about in their storybooks.
It happened one day in late August. It had been an exceptionally hot summer and Robbie who was down from Cambridge for the long vacation spent much of his time at the club. The Colts had one of their most successful spells in their not-so long history. God was in his heaven and everything was as it should be. That’s when it happened.
Alderman, a rather useful spin bowler, had been the first to notice. Money had gone missing from his jacket pocket, which had been left hanging in the changing room. It was only coins and would probably not have been noticed, except that the few coppers represented Alderman’s bus fare home and it was all the cash he had brought with him. Of course, we said he must be mistaken, was he certain he hadn’t forgotten to put the money in his pocket when he left home? Nobody wanted to admit that there was a thief among us.
The following week more money went missing. It could not be ignored. Had a sneak thief managed to infiltrate the clubhouse while we were out in the nets? We would not countenance the possibility that one of our own was responsible. We were gentleman after all.
My cigarette lighter proved to be the final straw. It wasn’t an expensive piece, I often suspected it was made of old iron, it was so heavy and (frankly) ugly. But it was mine. It was also very conspicuous. Unlike the small amounts of cash that had been stolen this would not be so easy to dispose of.
I spoke with Porter, our head groundsman. Something had to be done. I suggested a search of the premises. Porter was a sergeant in the War and I a major. He knew his place and set about doing this without demurring.
We kept the boys out of the clubhouse and I let Porter get on with it. We sat in the late afternoon sun. Some of the boys were impatient. We had finished match practice and they wanted to be off. Many had mothers at home waiting to serve tea. One or two had dates with lady friends.
About ten minutes later Porter emerged ashen faced from the clubhouse. He took me to one side to be out of the hearing of the boys. He was as embarrassed as hell. “I don’t know what to say, Major,” he said. “Spit it out man, we haven’t got all day,” I responded.
His face sweated and his ears were pink with embarrassment. He put his hand in his trouser pocket and brought out a dark-grey object. “Is this your cigarette lighter, sir,” he asked demurely. “Yes, by jove, it is,” I asserted, “Wherever did you find it?”
He blushed more deeply. “Well, sir,” I could see he could hardly bear to tell me, but he found fortitude and did so, “there’s the rub, it was in the jacket of Mr. Renaud.” His voice trailed off sorrowfully.
Aha! So our star player Robbie Renaud was a thief and caught red handed to boot.
“Whatever shall we do, sir?” Porter seemed genuinely concerned. There was, I told him only one thing for it, “We shall have to inform the police.”
“Oh, no sir, we couldn’t do that, think of the scandal.”
Maybe he had a point, but then again as scandals at youth sporting clubs went this was very small beer.
“I believe Master Renaud is doing well at the university,” Porter continued. I noticed but made no comment that our groundsman had demoted him from “mister” to “master” but I let the matter go. Porter continued, “He plans a career in the law, as a barrister.” I failed to see the point of all this and told Porter so.
“His career would be in ruins before it even started. He couldn’t have a criminal record,” the groundsman informed me. He had a point. So what did the fellow think we should do?
“Well in the Army days, as I’m sure you know Major,” I noticed the emphasis he had placed on my military rank. “We had a way of dealing with matters in the barracks informally, if you know what I mean, sir.”
I truly did not and I was getting impatient, as I’m sure so were the boys in the cricket team.
“Oh spit it out man, what are you trying to say?” I let my exasperation show. Porter was miffed. He sniffed, “Well, Major if we had any trouble in the barracks; and we had one or two tea-leafs I have to admit, we would give them a damn good hiding.”
I supposed the puzzlement showed on my face because he immediately clarified. “A beating, Major. Generally we used a heavy leather belt. There in the barracks.” He could see I was intrigued by now. “Bare arsed, as it were,” he coughed politely perhaps realising it was not the “done thing” to swear in front of an officer.
“Do I understand Porter you are suggesting that we punish Renaud in such a way?” I asked although I knew damn well that’s what he was saying. He nodded gruffly.
“You had better ask Renaud to see me privately, I’ll be in the club secretary’s office. Porter scuttled off.
Moments later I luxuriated in a large soft leather chair and examined the young man standing awkwardly before me. I had said previously he had the body of a schoolboy sporting hero. That remained the case, but now also he had the demeanour of the schoolboy himself. Maybe sixteen years old, standing in the housemaster’s study for a wigging – and maybe much more beside. I told him the facts of the case. My missing cigarette lighter had been found in his jacket pocket. He denied it. I was a little disappointed. He was an ex-St. Tom’s man, which was my old school too. If there was one thing we learned at St. Tom’s it was honour. We took our punishment, which at that very traditional English publish school meant a thrashing with a whippy ashplant cane. I was ashamed of the young man in front of me.
“Well, you leave me no alternative,” I sneered at him, “I must inform the police.”
“Oh no sir, please, no.” I had elicited a reaction. “Not the police, sir.” I did not have to prompt him, but he gave the same explanation that Porter had. Any whiff of legal scandal would put paid to his dream of the Bar. His father, a distinguished “silk” himself would be devastated. He would discontinue paying his university fees and the boy would have to get a job. And, for someone of his class that could only mean exile to a colony. “Yes,” he conceded, he would take a beating.
Now, I don’t want to say too much about this, but it so happened that the club had a number of school canes tucked away in a cupboard in the club secretary’s office. As I had intimated many of us were ex-public school men.
“An exemplary lesson must be made,” the tone of my voice mimicked that of H. R. C. Masterton, my housemaster at St. Tom’s. I say so myself, but when I choose to show it I have a very impressive presence. Renaud blanched, genuinely fearful of my next sentence. “You will be caned in front of the entire team.”
I let that sink in. Renaud’s ears turned a cherry red and his eyes welled. I hauled myself from the huge leather chair and headed for a cupboard at the far end of the room, where as expected I found three school canes. Unlike those we suffered at St. Tom’s these were not made of local ashplant, but were of sturdy, but whippy rattan, imported from one of our colonies somewhere out East. I took hold of the thickest of the three and held it between my two hands and flexed it. It had the effect on Renaud I desired. He blanched a little and looked down at the floorboards beneath his feet. I am sure he was no stranger to the sting of the cane. What boy at St. Tom’s had not felt the rod applied with some force against his stretched buttocks? It was that kind of school. It built men.
I was anxious to get on with this and instructed Renaud to follow me across to the clubhouse. This he did following at my heels like an obedient dog. Porter, anticipating my decision had kept the cricket colts behind. I swiftly informed them of the happenings of the previous few minutes and informed them of my decision. A dozen or so faces around me brightened. An Englishman likes nothing more but to witness the discomfort of another. And, let me share with you, how much more enjoyable it is when one as distinguished as the best cricketer in the team is on the receiving end.
There was a long wooden table along the centre of the room, it would prove prefect for my needs. “I want you to climb onto the table,” I intoned, “and lay flat across it.” I had no intention of instructing him to “bend over” in the more traditional style. The room had a tall roof and I knew I should be able to swing the cane high and flog it down with maximum force into Renaud’s meaty buttocks without touching the ceiling.
What colour he still had drained from his face, but I had not yet finished. “But before you do that, I want you to lower your trousers. Right down to your shoes.” There was a gasp from some boys and I looked up to see Alderman beaming with delight. Oh, I wondered, what rivalry was it that existed between the two boys? It probably transcended cricket.
I had said earlier that Renaud had not impressed me with his honour. I take back that criticism now. He undid his wide black belt. It must have taken tremendous fortitude to do so, knowing that all his teammates would witness his humiliation. I (seemingly) absent-mindedly swished the cane through empty air, waiting for the twenty-year-old to prepare himself. With surprisingly steady fingers (I thought) he unbuttoned his cricket whites and opened them up affording myself and his fellow teammates a fine view of his cock and balls encased in soft white cotton. Grim-faced he put his thumbs inside the trouser waistband and with a mere flick of the wrist sent his whites south where they formed a puddle on top of his shoes.
Neither looking to left or right and thereby ignoring his audience, Renaud climbed on the table. It was old and rickety and it swayed as he moved to settle himself into position that I wondered if it might collapse under his weight. Instinctively he stretched his arms in front of his head and gripped the far end of the table; the muscles in his back rippled underneath his white cotton shirt. I took a moment to drink in the sight. This was some athlete prostrated before me. His muscular body was exposed to my gaze. I leaned forward and gently took hold of the tail of his shirt and folded it up his back away from the target area. I took a deep breath and reached for the waist of his underwear. He wore modern elasticated Y-fronts. I pulled the waist a little and the cotton clung more to the contours of his bottom, creating a kind of ravine at his crack.
I moved back away from the table and picked up the cane once more. Renaud’s bottom stiffened, it was preparing to receive the first tremendous swipe. “Relax,” I told him. He didn’t seem to hear. In any case his bum stayed tight as I tapped the cane gently across the very centre of both cheeks. The flesh was solid, it felt like I was rapping my rod against a solid rubber ball. I raised the cane to ceiling height and with a slight twist of my body I brought it crashing down. A perfect hit. We all saw a welt rise beneath the tight white cotton. Renaud’s body shuddered, his head shook and his fingertips gripped the table edge more tightly.
I counted to fifteen in my head and went again. The second stripe hit an inch or so below the first. The cricketer wriggled his hips and his legs flailed behind him, but I thought he kept remarkably quiet considering the searing pain he must be enduring. I counted again in my head, while also looking at my audience. A boy called Robinson had his hands folded in front of his crotch; his eyes were damper than Renaud’s.
The third hit a little above the first. He now had three deep cuts running parallel across his backside. A spot of blood was turning his crisp white underpants pink. His face was as scarlet as I presumed his bottom to be. He bit deeply into his lower lip, stifling the howls that surely his body demanded he make in response to the agony it endured.
I slashed number four low, into the crease where the bottom meets the back of the thighs. His body shuddered and his legs flew again. His head hammered up and down as it butted the top of the table. Still, almost total silence, save for the gulps he made as he desperately drew air into his lungs.
I am not a cruel man: ask the men under my command in the war if you disbelieve me, but I do believe in doing things thoroughly. That was why for my next stroke I repositioned my own body slightly and placed the cane in such a way that it lay along a diagonal from the bottom left cheek up to the top right. The crack of the cane elicited a satisfying yowl from Renaud. I had broken him at last. He emptied his lungs, as well he might since that swipe had landed across the previous four cuts reigniting the pain in all of them. A pink stain spread over the snugly-fitting underpants.
You have probably already guessed what I did next. You would have done the same in my place. I moved myself again and this time placed the whippy rattan along the opposite diagonal. By the time the lash struck the meaty backside Renaud had a perfect “X” emblazoned across his bottom.
There was, naturally, a repeat of the howling. Tears and snot flowed down his beautiful face. His hair was soaked with sweat and his shirt stuck to his muscular back. From my close vantage point I saw welts had risen under his Y-fronts. They would be with him for many days and serve as a continuing reminder of this severe thrashing.
Six-of-the-best is the standard tariff for such a beating and I was content at that. I handed the cane to Porter who unsure what he was expected to do with it simply tucked it under his arm.
“That is it. It is over,” I said quietly. The boys from the cricket club took this as their cue to leave and the room emptied.
“Take the cane back to the secretary’s room,” I instructed Porter and he too left. I was alone with Renaud. I watched in silence as he climbed off the table and onto his feet. He was sobbing, but seemed to be regaining some control. Without looking at me he tugged up his trousers, wincing as the heavy material made contact with his scorched backside. He did up his wide leather belt and waited. The silence lasted for some seconds, before I realised he was waiting for me to speak.
“You are dismissed,” I intoned rather pompously and Renaud shuffled from the room in intense discomfort. I waited a full minute and when it was clear nobody was going to return to the clubhouse, I loosened the front of my trousers to deal with my own discomfort, not once reproaching myself for planting the cigarette lighter in Renaud’s jacket pocket.
Other stories you might like
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second