Cuckfield stood feet slightly apart on the worn rug in front of the desk, arms clasped behind back, head bowed, trying not to notice the thick, long curve-handled cane being flexed in the hands of the headmaster.
Dr Fortescue leaned forward, his steely gaze burning a hole into the sixth-former before him. “Pah!” he excelled air through clenched teeth. “So, Cuckfield you think you are above the school. That the rules do not apply to you,” he growled. “You think you should not be treated like a child. That punishments are not for you.”
Cuckfield recoiled. Even at a distance of three paces he could smell the headmaster’s foul breath. “So, Cuckfield, you feel you should be treated like an adult.” The headmaster sneered at the word “adult.” Dr Fortescue flexed the cane some more creating a perfect arc. “Let me tell you Cuckfield adults are required to make decisions. Often harsh decisions. Often complicated decisions. Do you understand boy?”
Cuckfield breathed deeply, remained silent, unsure if he was really expected to answer the question. “Bah!” the headmaster exclaimed, his face reddening. “All right Cuckfield. Let me give you a choice. It is your decision to make. You shall choose,” the headmaster dripped sarcasm.
“Here is your choice. Look at me boy when I am speaking to you.”
Cuckfield forced his eyes from the ground and looked at the headmaster. He was a weasel of a man, his narrow eyes staring through round spectacles. His long nose and pointed chin were those of a witch. His body was gaunt, his skin grey. A tattered academic gown draped loosely from his body. His tweed suit was unbrushed. He gave off the faint aroma of coal tar soap.
His lips curled into a snarl. “Here is your choice Cuckfield. You can accept that you are a schoolboy at St Septimius and accept my authority – the school’s authority. So doing you will lower your trousers and bend across that chair.” He nodded towards an over-stuffed armchair. You will then submit yourself to a thrashing.”
The headmaster’s eyes blazed. Cuckfield’s heart thumped, he felt blood rushing to his face. “No wonder the boys call you the Tyrant Headmaster,” he thought silently. He stared at a photograph of the school rugby team on the wall a little to the left of the headmaster’s shoulder and waited for him to continue.
“You will then receive six swipes of this cane,” he pointed the rod at Cuckfield and snarled. “Six very hard cuts. Six-of-the-very-best Cuckfield.” He paused and observed the eighteen-year-old on the rug in front of him. “You will take your beating without fuss because you know you deserve to be punished. You know you have broken the rules and this is your just desserts.”
Cuckfield clenched his hands into fists. For tuppence he would sock the smug headmaster on the jaw.
“Then, Cuckfield,” Dr Fortescue intoned, once I consider you have been punished enough, you will thank me for correcting you.” He paused for effect and rather annoyed that Cuckfield remained outwardly impassive he continued. “You will shake me by the hand and thank me for beating you. I will make a note of your punishment in the book and it will be over. You will walk,” he paused again because he was about to make a little joke, “You will walk with some difficulty out of here and we shall both get on with our lives.” Another pause. “Do you understand, Cuckfield?” Still, no response from Cuckfield.
The headmaster was now visibly annoyed. “That is one choice you may make, Cuckfield. The second is that you refuse to accept just punishment. In that I case you shall be immediately suspended from school pending the next meeting of the governors when your suspension will be confirmed as expulsion. You will no longer be a member of the school. You will not be permitted to take your examinations.” He paused to allow the full import of his words to sink in, then continued. “Your records show you are an academically-gifted boy, destined for a place at university. Not any longer. You will not be qualified to go to university and thereby you will not be able to pursue the career of your choice. A life wasted, Cuckfield.”
The headmaster sighed as if he bore the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. “Think of your mother’s disappointment, the shame you will bring on your family.” He nodded his head gravely. “The shame when your fellow chaps learn you would not take your beating.”
He took a deep breath, his lecture had taken more out of him than he had expected. “Yes, Cuckfield, the choice is yours.” He growled, “But you have only thirty seconds in which to make it.”
Cuckfield’s eyes blazed – with indignation. Soon they would be aflame for an entirely different reason. The injustice of it. Why should this vile creature be allowed to treat him this way? What gave him and others like him the right to do this? His local vicar was just as bed. Was there a boy’s backside in the parish that had not been bruised at one time or another by his leather strap.
There was no argument to be had. Dr Fortescue held all the cards. He was quite right Cuckfield had no choice; no real choice. As the Americans were fond of saying it was his way or the highway. And, the highway led nowhere. Cuckfield spoke no words; he wouldn’t give the headmaster the satisfaction. He would not agree verbally that he had won once more.
Instead, he reached for the buckle of the belt that held his long pale-grey trousers aloft. They were typical of the time; tailored from heavy serge material, cut generously. Cuckfield’s fingers quivered, unable to grasp his belt buckle. His face reddened with frustration. He wanted to undo his belt with a flourish, pop the button on his waist rip open his flies and send the trousers sailing to his feet with a theatrical flourish. “There Fortescue!” was the message he desired to send, “Do your worst. See if I care!”
Instead, the prong in the buckle snagged and he pulled once, twice, three times before at last the belt was loosened. The top button was easy but the button flies resisted. How he wished the trousers had the new style zipper. Whoosh! he would be undone with the merest flick of the wrist. His theatrical intent was somewhat spoiled. At last the front of his trousers was open, the weight of the belt and the material sent them slithering down his thighs to snag at the knees. So much for his defiant flourish. He spread his legs a little and the trousers continued their journey and rested in a puddle on top of his black lace-up shoes.
His white cotton shirt was long and the tail covered his buttocks and continued half way down his thighs. Cuckfield stood, eyes still transfixed by the grimy rug beneath his trousers. He supposed it had once been coloured shades of blue, but the feet of generations of schoolboys shuffling had turned it to a dirty mush. A draft wafted across the study, originating from the unlit open fire. It breezed against his naked legs causing him an involuntarily shiver.
Dr Fortescue continued his antics with the cane. Headmasters can be ham actors and the head of St SIGS was one of the best. He flexed the whippy rattan cane. Then, he examined it carefully; with an index finger, caressing its tip and rubbing gently each of the notches that appeared every six or seven inches along its length. Finally, he peered closely at the curved handle; as if this was the first time he had set eyes on it. As school punishment canes went, this was a modest specimen. It was about thirty inches long and a little thicker than a pencil. It was a dark yellow Malacca rod, whippy and dense; eminently suitable for a senior boy, needing a lesson.
Satisfied in his mind that the cane was up to the job, Dr Fortescue swished it several times through the air. This action served no purpose at all, but it was one of those rituals beloved by schoolmasters up and down the land. One supposes it is intended to intimidate a boy. If that is the case, the little display was lost on Cuckfield. He was too angry for intimidation. His sense of injustice burned brightly. If he deemed to speak at all at that point he would probably only say, “Oh get on with it, do!”
Dr Fortescue was ready to do just that. He waved his cane towards an ugly armchair. Its leather was scuffed, the seat cushion deflated by untold numbers of visitors with heavy buttocks who had rested there. The leather on its back had been polished to a shine by cotton shirts. “Bend over.” It was a calm instruction, there was no need for histrionics, the headmaster was in charge and he knew this. The eighteen-year-old sixth-former would obey his every command.
Cuckfield was no stranger to this chair. Without further instruction he turned to face it, he was some distance off so he shuffled two paces forward. Still he would not look at the headmaster. He hesitated for a moment; behind him Dr Fortescue was pacing the room, the floorboards creaking with every step. “Come on boy,” he growled.
This was Cuckfield’s cue to reach down to the tail of his shirt and unceremoniously lift it high so that it cleared his buttocks and left a portion of his lower back naked. He left it hanging and with a single athletic movement he fell forward over the chair. He was a good height, his stomach rested comfortable on the apex of the chair’s back. He reached forward and gripped the front of the chair, his striped necktie dangled in front of his eyes but it did not obscure his close-up view of a large depression in the seat cushion.
The steady creaking of floorboards continued. Dr Fortescue was waiting for the boy to present his bottom submissively. Cuckfield’s white cotton Y-front underpants were a little too snug. The headmaster noticed this with his boys, often their blazers or trousers were a little too small; they grew so quickly. Of course, mothers compensated this by buying school uniforms that were too large so that their young ones would grow into them. So it was that schoolboys often wore clothes that did not fit them.
The smooth cotton of Cuckfield’s underpants dug into his crack and as he stretched forward they lifted and separated each cheek. He was a burly boy with square shoulders and a strong back. His waist hardly tapered into large meaty buttocks. They made a tremendous target. The headmaster ceased his pacing and slowly approached the boy, noting the fine downy hair on the teenager’s legs. His move served no practical purpose, but Dr Fortescue gently took hold of Cuckfield’s white cotton shirt and pushed it further up his back. The boy was naked from his waist to shoulders. In contrast with the legs, his torso appeared totally hairless.
He was nearly ready, but not quite. There was one last ritual. He puckered two fingers and took hold of the elasticated waist of Cuckfield’s underpants. The boy tensed, shut his eyes tight and held his breath. With three tugs they were over Cuckfield’s buttocks and down his thighs. The headmaster could have left them out of harm’s way at the knees, but instead he carefully transported them still lower until they bunched on top of his grey trousers.
The hairless buttocks twitched. Cuckfield had no control, a bottom about to be thrashed are apt to do such a thing. It is the anticipation of the agony about to come. “Legs further apart boy.” Another bluff command and again it served no practical purpose. Cuckfield eased his knees apart by an inch, conscious that Dr Fortescue could now see right into his crack. His hole winked a greeting.
The headmaster sucked in a lung-full of air, wiped sweat from his eyes with the back of his hand, and gripped the cane in his right fist. He straightened his arm, his elbow locked. Tap-tap-tap. He brought the arm back, twisted his wrist and with a forearm smash brought it forward with maximum force. A dark pink line blazed across the centre of Cuckfield’s bottom. The boy muffled a groan, dug his hands deeper into the seat cushion, and shook his head from side to side (rather like a horse does when it neighs).
Dr Fortescue took his time. He was on a mission. He had a duty. He had to save this young man’s life. The stupid boy would thank him one day. When he had climbed his way to the top of his profession; when he was a High Court Judge or a captain of industry or what-not, Cuckfield would look back on days like this with gratitude. “Thank you, Dr Fortescue,” he would say. “I owe it all to you.”
Dr Fortescue laid twelve stingers across the bare white bottom. It looked like a map of Clapham Junction railway by the time he finished. Lines criss-crossed across Cuckfield’s bum. They ran from north to south; and left to right, often intersecting. The cheeks glowed red hot with a claret-coloured sheen. Even now bruises were forming, within the hour they would be a deep purple. By the time Cuckfield crawled into bed they would be mauve. A week later the final yellow traces would disappear.
The cuts were already welts. When gingerly he traced his buttocks with the tips of his fingers they felt like corrugated cardboard. No, not card, but leather. It was as if a crust had formed on his cheeks. The agony was intense, but even as Cuckfield rose from the chair and unsteadily reached down for his underpants and wriggled until they were back in their rightful place, it was easing. The ache was tremendous, like someone had assaulted him with a cheese grater. He found his trousers and abandoning any attempt to button his fly, he did up the waist and hands shaking buckled the belt.
His behind throbbed like crazy, he wouldn’t be able to sit for an hour. How could he travel home on the school bus? His head ached almost as much as his bottom. He didn’t see Dr Fortescue return the cane to its home. But he smelt the vile stench of his breath as he stood in front of him. “Something to say Cuckfield?” he jeered.
We all sometimes have that fantasy, that if we had a machinegun in our hands we would mow down all our enemies in a single sweep. Later that night in bed, bruised and battered Cuckfield would indulge himself with his version. For now, careful not to look at his tormentor, he took a deep breath. “Thank you for punishing me, sir. I deserved it,” spoken with a clear voice. He watched Dr Fortescue stumble to his desk, open a drawer and delve inside. He heard a dull thud as something rolled across the drawer. The headmaster growled, slammed the drawer shut and opened another. “Ha!” he exclaimed to nobody in particular. He took out a large hard-backed book, leafed through its pages until he found the right one. He took a pen from his pocket and wrote the date, noting that it already appeared five times. He wrote Cuckfield’s name and the details of the punishment.
He tossed the book onto the desk, turned it round so it faced Cuckfield. “Sign!” With a steady hand, he did so. “Dismissed Cuckfield. Send in the next boy!”
Picture credit: C H (Charles) Chapman – The Magnet
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
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