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For QM, with respect.
A Meeting with Our Headmaster
Miss Vera Kingsley
C/O Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Kingsley
4 Carlton Park Road
18 March 19--
My Dear Vera,
I know this is days early for my weekly letter
and hope this finds your lungs mending and your plans to return
in the autumn still in place, but I had to tell you
about this horrid afternoon. God help me should there ever be
How right you were about my deceptions catching
up with me with a vengeance! I'm having to write to you while
standing. Let me just say that I can sit, but certainly
have no desire to. The reason should soon be clear, if you haven't
The reason I had been summoned to our headmaster's
office wasn't entirely a mystery to me. I'm not sure why, but
sometimes I can't seem to focus on my work and things gradually
start to slide. And then I start feeling overwhelmed. After
that, events sort of spiral out of my control. (I can imagine
you rolling your eyes at that, but it's true.)
Anyway, as you know, maths has never been
my best subject. I'd been meaning to catch up for a couple of
weeks, especially after that note went home, but without your
cool mind, well, let's just say my intentions hadn't gone as
far as one might like. Today, when I got to maths, Mr. M-- passed
me a sealed letter and instructed me to take it to our headmaster
immediately and wait while he read it. Of course I'm sure my
face turned ashen as anyone's might under the same circumstances.
I slowly put my books and pens away while all the while that
horrible Mabel Oliver (whom I shall hate until the day I die)
smirked and nudged Diana. My hand positively itched
to slap her nasty, spotted face, but I restrained myself, knowing
I already had an ordeal of sorts before me. Poor Fiona was almost
in tears!! It was the loving look she threw me that made me
determined not to show the others how afraid I was.
I went up and took the envelope (it reeked
trouble) and slowly walked toward our head's office, making
a quick stop at the loo just for a once-over of my uniform.
Dear Vera, how I missed you right then! You can go over our
uniforms so well and catch the nasty little details that the
head's keen eyes never seem to miss. As it was I did my very
best. Retied that silly tie at least twice. And pulled my shirt
down tight beneath my gymslip. I thought I looked rather smart
for nearly the end of the day. But I'd forgotten to check my
knee socks. I'm sure you'd have remembered, of course.
As I stood in front of the headmaster's door,
my heart felt like a hummingbird's. Honestly, it was beating
that fast. I couldn't help but remember the last time I was
there, with Fiona and you after our disastrous argument with
the housemistress over table manners. Knocking, I recalled the
three hard strokes of the tawse we each got across our palms,
followed by a no less painful, but much more humiliating six
across our knickers. You were so brave, Vera dear. I tried to
remember your strength as I knocked softly on his thick walnut
It seemed he was waiting for me and at once
called out permission for me to enter. I entered and stood before
his desk. Vera, he walked around me in his robes like some sort
of horrible circling bat, looking me up and down. At first I
was confident all was right, but then I noticed his glance lingering
on my knee socks. They were crooked (I had forgotten the undergarters,
you see) and I soon was scolded and hurried to set them right.
He asked why I'd come and so I handed him
the note. He handed it back, demanding that I tell him what
was in it. When I claimed not to have read it, which was the
truth, he became still more annoyed and asked what I thought
it said. I confessed to not having been as attentive to my maths
as I should be. And, in fact, when he directed me to read him
that note, that seemed the sum of its contents. Surely nothing
bad enough to warrant this manner of treatment!
But there apparently were other reports. As
he rattled on and on about my irresponsible attitude toward
school, I gathered he'd managed to talk to all my teachers who
apparently had the opinion I needed "waking up". He
must have repeated that expression five times. My bottom fairly
tingled with fear each time he said the word "waking".
I shuddered as it was made clear I would feel the tawse today.
But the worst was to come! Have you guessed
it? Yes, that note. He had the note commenting on my lack of
prep in maths that I was supposed to have taken home to Mr.
B-- for his signature. I know you warned me, but I was sure
I could keep it from him. But now my guardian's signature was
being questioned. I tried to deny it, but when our headmaster
began a letter to him to be posted that afternoon asking what
his reaction to news of my laziness had been, I was forced to
confess my deception and forgery. Had I not, Mr. B-- would have
likely brought his answer in person! And I was clearly in enough
Our headmaster's disapproval radiated from
his every word and glance as he scolded me and demanded a full
admission of guilt. I gave him that, my shame surely rendering
me as crimson as our blazers, but I was informed in no uncertain
terms that my atonement would be inscribed on my body. I felt
a strong urge to use the loo and repressed it, fearing his sarcasm
were I brave enough to ask.
My nervousness must have brought a smile to
my lips, one I tried to hide, but which our headmaster of course
noticed. "So you find this humorous, do you, miss?"
What on earth can one say to that I ask you? I tried to deny
it of course - there certainly was nothing funny from my
perspective. "It's nerves, sir," I said.
Still he ignored me and mentioned again
that I needed "waking up" and stated I'd soon be "taking
things a bit more seriously". I ask you, Vera dear, how
can one not simply sigh in the face of comments like
that? Still, I tried to reply. Something along the lines of
"I'm sure this conversation has woken me, sir."
Our headmaster held my gaze until I was squirming
with discomfort. I looked away once, only to be reminded to
look him in the eye. He said in a moment he was going to see
for himself how badly behind I was in maths, but first he would
see about my "wakening up". I dreaded seeing the tawse,
but stood with my head up as he opened the side drawer of his
desk and reached in.
The heavy tawse was indeed what emerged. I
clenched my hands behind my back, remembering its sting. Our
headmaster snapped it cruelly, his eyes never moving from my
own. I swear, Vera, I could hardly swallow. I'm not sure how
I managed breathing.
At his direction I went over to a low bench.
He had me bend all the way over, so my elbows rested on the
bench. I could feel the skirt of my gymslip rise over the tops
of my thighs. I could do nothing but pray for the strokes to
be given over my skirt, but after a moment of smoothing, he
lifted the gymslip and folded it onto my back, gravity raising
it in the front as well. I then felt his finger touch bare skin
where I would expect there to be knicker and knew I must be
wearing a pair with a small tear along the hem, thus meriting
yet another lecture on my carelessness.
My face flamed so I almost wished
he would start. Almost. Finally he pronounced the sentence.
Six strokes as my "waking up" plus an extra two for
carelessness about my uniform. He delivered them slowly, having
me count each in turn. The first six landed low on my knickers,
the tips wrapping to my hip. I cried out in pain, and was told
to be still and keep my feet flat on the floor. The final two
were across the tops of my bare thighs. Each hurt more than
the other six together. Finally, after a long wait and inspection
he allowed me to rise and directed me to the desk in the corner.
[I'm taking a break here, Vera dear. Writing
to you has been so engaging I've almost missed tea. I'll finish
this after my prep.
I'm back now with nothing to do until lights
out except finish this letter. And yes, I finished my prep so
you don't need to nag.]
The next portion of this "trial"
was to be a test of how far behind in maths I'd got myself.
Our headmaster sat me (ouch!) down at the corner desk and opened
a copy of our maths text to a mini-test on problem sets. My
heart started beating again. This was work I remembered from
last term and I moved through the problems with some confidence.
Still, the time limit he set wasn't sufficient to do careful
work. Since I was to get three cane strokes for each error,
I prayed to have as few errors as possible.
When he called time and collected my work
I was found to have made only two errors. The headmaster seemed
surprised, pleased even. I allowed myself to relax, hoping that
this embarrassing scene could soon be past. He told me he was
pleased to see I could work when properly motivated and he would
offer me the chance to skip being caned entirely. There was
but one problem more he wished me to solve. Having seen the
remainder of the chapter, I felt sure I could answer another
problem and agreed calmly to his 'double or nothing' terms.
So you'll understand that my heart stopped
when he pulled some ancient text from his shelf and began flipping
through the pages. I tried to plead, only to have it pointed
out that I'd agreed I could do one more problem. The problem
he gave, Vera, was to find out the surface area of eight metal
tubes of a certain length and width. As if a young lady would
ever have any use for this knowledge! I tell you I sat there
holding my pencil with my head fairly reeling and no
idea where to begin. Finally in desperation I began
to multiply numbers, keeping in mind that area equals length
times width. Still, I knew that that formula was for squares
and such and that these tubes were round. But I had
to try despite knowing as I worked it was all hopeless.
It seemed I'd only started when he called
time and picked up my paper. He gazed at it with what I can
only call contempt. Finally he handed it to me and asked me
to please explain my reasoning. I stammered something about
multiplying the numbers and then adding them to each other.
The headmaster loomed still closer and asked if he was to understand
that I thought I could calculate the area of a tube by multiplying
the length and diameter. I nodded, my throat totally dry. In
a voice dripping with sarcasm he wondered if I'd ever been "enlightened"
on the subject of "radius" or "pi". I could
not answer, but only stared. I remembered the terms vaguely
from moments in class when my daydreams dropped me into the
reality of lessons.
"Miss," our headmaster demanded,
"I asked you what 'pi' means." I told him that it
was three-point-something or other, but that I couldn't remember
and I'd always been terrible at word problems and anyway, what
was the use of learning things like this? He made my blood cold
by telling me he could now see what my maths master had to complain
about and that I'd clearly not been even attempting to learn
any of my trigonometry lessons. He continued with some nonsense
about me needing to order carpet or wallpaper. As if I will
ever find myself living in a series of tubes?
I soon found myself standing before the bench
again, bent over so my elbows rested on its surface. He took
some time folding up my skirt, telling me I'd be getting twelve
strokes with the senior cane. My knees were shaking even before
I felt his fingers on my knickers' waistband or heard the dreaded
phrase "bare bottom". It was with aching slowness
he lowered my knickers to just above my knees, finally picking
up the cane and swishing it through the air several times. I'm
not sure what all he said - something about this being the most
severe of punishments given at this school for girls who refused
to learn any other way. I tried not to listen, tried only to
focus on my breathing.
The caning did not begin immediately, Vera.
He tortured me with half-strokes and tapping for what seemed
like hours, until the back of my calves ached with holding this
humiliating position. Until I could feel myself begin to perspire
with fear and tension. Finally he laid the stroke on hard
across both my cheeks. I swear I felt as if I'd been branded.
That lighter cane the young history master uses is a mere noodle
compared to this rod. After a longish pause the headmaster informed
me I was to count and thank him. I did just as he asked, wanting
to do nothing which would make this punishment more severe.
Still, some sort of stroppy rebellion must
have found its way into my tone for at the half-way point he
stopped and stated that however hardened I was, he'd find a
way to get through to me. I was truly horrified as I could not
imagine bearing any greater pain then he was already inflicting.
After cautioning me not to rise, he began to lay the cane on
again, not in the strong hard cuts he'd been using, but swift
and rapid swishes which flicked across my bottom and thighs
feeling like nothing so much as a swarm of attacking bees. I
clawed at the bench and must have made quite a sight, squirming
with the struggle of keeping both feet on the floor. The rumour
that our headmaster is an expert with the rod is true and I
soon found myself promising to improve my behaviour if only
he would stop, tears falling down my face onto my clenched hands.
Finally he did stop and I, almost maddened
with pain, began to sob. He laid his hand on my back and told
me that I was now to start the count at nine - that I had four
more strokes remaining. I swear, Vera, I almost fainted. He
was counting those strokes as but two off the total twelve!!
It seemed most unreasonable and unfair and I wished to argue
but feared he would have me resume at eight or even seven were
I to seem at all resistant. So I merely replied "Yes, sir"
and began counting off the final four strokes.
I'm sure I need not tell you how awful they
were, each one landing but a hair lower than the one before
it across the very base of my bottom, the final two crossing
in the crease where my bottom and thighs meet. I think even
the headmaster was concerned the strokes had been too much,
for after I counted the final one, he kept me in position, examining
my bottom for damage and running his fingers lightly along each
weal. One would think I'd have felt embarrassed, but I honestly
felt only moved at his concern and a desire that he assure himself
I was well and truly punished.
After satisfying himself as to the state of
my bottom, the headmaster raised my knickers and directed me
to a corner of his office just behind his desk. There is something
about the phrase "get your nose right in that corner, miss"
that is just sooooo lacking in any dignity. Still, I was still
as a mouse, not wanting to give any reason to incur further
Standing there in that corner my bravado finally
slipped. I began to cry, quietly, but tears nevertheless. I
stiffened my shoulders, trying not to let my shame show, but
sobs began to shake me. I felt just so overwhelmed with guilt
at what I'd done, wishing I could undo it all. I felt, well,
bad and ashamed, wondering why anyone would bother
The corner-time lasted an eternity, but finally
the headmaster called me over to him. I wiped my eyes and turned
to see him sitting in the armless chair before his desk. As
I stood before him, I searched his eyes for the contempt I was
sure I'd find. But there was none, but rather warmth and a determination
that made my knees quake a bit. Despite my shame, I held his
"And now, miss," he said, "we
must deal with your lying and forgery."
Even though I was expecting nothing less,
my heart dropped at his words. Yet I nodded gravely, standing
as if frozen in place. He held up a large, long-handled clothes
brush. I gasped at the sight of it and quickly explained that
I'd only lied because of not wanting to disappoint my guardian.
"Lying and cheating in that manner was
a childish thing to do. You'd already disappointed him by falling
behind on your work and now have only added to that."
I nodded, tears falling again as I hopelessly
pleaded with him to keep this a secret. I have to admit I wasn't
surprised when the headmaster explained that he would of course
be sending a letter with the account of the entire incident
to Mr. B-- by the end of the week. My only choice is really
to write to him first which I shall do as soon as I send this
letter off, though I admit to dreading it.
"For such childish actions," he
continued, "I think I know just the right sort of punishment."
And with that he gestured for me to bend over his lap, which
I did, only to feel him lowering my knickers yet again. I'm
sure my face purpled with shame as the closeness seemed to underline
my humiliation. So I would know that this was his intention,
he commented on how disappointing it was to find a girl my age
still needing to go across his lap. I, of course, had to agree.
Vera, that brush hurt every bit as much at
sixteen as it had at nine. I tried to be stoic, but, sooner
than I would have thought possible, heard myself cry. Still,
the spanking and quiet scolding continued a bit longer. Finally
it was ended and my clothing adjusted as I stood before our
headmaster, with my bottom too sore to even tempt me to rub.
I expected further scolding, but he was quiet
and listened as I pledged to do better, even agreeing with me
when I said I knew I would. Finally he commented that I had
a great deal of potential (little did he know!) and that this
correction, unpleasant though it may have been, was needed to
ensure that I didn't waste any talents.
When he finished speaking, I nodded and signed
the punishment book in the space he indicated. And then I surprised
even myself by thanking him.
I'm still musing over his words. Did our headmaster
really punish me so severely because he cares about me? I've
always thought of being punished as a sort of revenge, by the
school or my guardian, for my transgressions - a sort of payment
in kind. But if he spoke the truth then there must be something
Or it could just be something he says. Please
let me know your thoughts and keep yourself well. I'll write
with more pleasant news on the weekend.
In deepest friendship and wishing you speedy
to St. Clare School stories
to the treehouse