by Arthur James
When she walked into dormitory number three, the late-night feast was in full swing, and no one had heard the sharp click of her high heels or the swish of her black, calf-length skirt. Miss Valtesi smiled; no one else dared to smile, though Saunders, the dormitory monitor, still snugly in bed, hugged himself and suppressed a grin. Hadn't he warned them it would all end in tears. Miss Valtesi, short, dark hair, severely beautiful, with her dark gypsy eyes, stood as still as a statue as she surveyed the scene. Cakes and chocolates of every sort were piled high on several large plates.
"Boys," she said, her voice soft but firm, "the eating of cakes and sticky comestibles in your dormitory is strictly against school rules. The school provides excellent fare which should more than adequately meet your nutritional needs. This is a disgusting display of gluttony and," she hesitated for a moment, "you run the very real risk of indigestion."
Five faces, pale in the candlelight, earnestly wished they had not risked indigestion.
"I think you are very greedy little boys but fortunately there is an excellent cure for greedy little boys. Saunders, you are dormitory monitor," she said, raising a languid eyebrow.
"Yes, Miss," he answered eagerly, blinking owl-like through a large pair of spectacles.
"Stop skulking in bed, Saunders. Take this key and go downstairs to my study. In my cupboard you will find several canes. Bring me one please, and don't keep us waiting will you, Saunders?" she instructed.
Saunders, trying in vain to keep the enthusiasm out of his voice, answered, "Yes Miss, at once Miss," and quickly left the room.
"The rest of you boys will stand in complete silence, facing your beds, with your hands on your heads."
All that could be heard was the ticking of the grandfather clock and the soft rustle of cloth against nylon as Miss Valtesi placed the half eaten cakes and other items back in the picnic hamper. When she had accomplished this small task she sat on one of the beds and waited. No boy ventured to make a sound. The usually daring O'Driscoll could find no amusing witticism to lighten their predicament. Jevons was not his usual happy self. Manners and Hartnell for once had nothing to say to each other and the new boy, Lacey, was almost in tears.
Out of the corner of her eye she glimpsed the fair-haired Manners, his hands still on his head, lean over and whisper something towards Hartnell. She turned and walked over to him. At once he was silent.
"What were you saying, Manners? I saw you whispering in Hartnell's ear despite being told to be silent."
She stood extremely close to him. The exquisite smell of her perfume filled up his senses.
"Nothing, Miss," he answered, his voice betraying his guilt.
Firmly, she took hold of his ear between finger and thumb and delicately twisted. "Are you lying to me, young man, or am I suffering perhaps from hallucinations?" she inquired, her voice heavy with sarcasm.
"Oh my ear! I just said to Hartnell that it was bad luck to have this happen on his birthday, Miss."
"Bad luck, Manners? Obey the school rules or be prepared to suffer the consequences." As she said this she gave his ear a final squeeze and gracefully moved behind the darkly pretty Hartnell. His long eyelashes twitched nervously as with an elegant hand she stroked his dark brown hair. Hartnell was one of her favourites. She admired him for his quiet dignity and his gentle humorous nature.
"And you, Hartnell, how old are you today?"
"Twelve! That is a very significant number. Shall I tell you why?"
"You can Miss but I'm sure I can guess"
"Hartnell, you are an exceptionally intelligent child. I'm sure you can guess too. Now what has become of that idle boy I sent on such an important errand?"
Saunders had a very difficult decision to make. Which one of the many canes to chose from would be the most painful for the late night gourmets now awaiting their fate. Would a thin whippy one increase their discomfort or how about a slightly thicker one guaranteed to leave some bruising. In the end after much thought he went for a long exceptionally thin flexible cane with a traditional crook handle. It was dark and something about it suggested it had been well-loved, though not by those who had felt its sting. Like an eager puppy retrieving a ball for his mistress, he hurried back, ready to thoroughly enjoy the entertainment. He would, of course, have reported this disgraceful episode to Miss Valtesi in the morning but this was better. Normally, the boys would have been beaten in private but this was a chance to enjoy a little sweet revenge. The others referred to him as 'Sneaky Saunders' and detested him for telling tales. It wasn't his fault; they just didn't realise that the dormitory monitor held a very important position of authority in the school.
At last the door opened and Saunders, hurrying across the dormitory, handed Miss Valtesi the cane like a knight proffering his sword to the queen.
"Thank you. A commendable choice, Saunders. The cane Saunders has kindly chosen for us, boys, has been made of the finest dark rattan. It is a little thinner than is usual but its extra flexibility means it will be deeply felt," she said as she accepted the slender instrument of correction.
Saunders, smiling like a Cheshire cat, quickly went back to his bed. Miss Valtesi, flexing the cane between her small delicate hands, spoke, not without enjoyment, "Saunders, what on earth are you going back to bed for? Go and join the others please; as dormitory monitor you are expected to maintain discipline in the dormitory. You will be punished severely for the neglect of that duty."
Saunders' face paled, the smirk vanishing from his face as if by magic. Manners and Hartnell exchanged a grin.
"Right, who shall we have first I wonder? Saunders, despite the fact you kept me waiting, I am not going to keep you waiting. Bend over the end of your bed please. Bottom well up now please and don't move or I shall be forced to take down those pyjamas."
Saunders, shivering in anticipation, proffered his bottom at the correct angle. Miss Valtesi rested the cane across the thin, tightly-stretched material of his cotton pyjamas, like a scalpel dissecting a plump peach.
Poor Saunders. It hardly qualified as a severe thrashing but it was still painful enough to ensure his face resembled the demon in the pantomime. Each crisply applied stroke stung. His bottom squirmed but was unable to avoid its just deserts. He howled and pleaded but to no avail. If his cries for mercy touched her heart she certainly gave no sign of it, in fact it seemed the more noise he made the harder that thin cane swished across his plump cheeks. The seventh stroke landed with a little more vim than the preceding ones, causing Saunders to rise from his position. When Saunders had finished his little dance of agony, he looked hopefully at Miss Valtesi, who was now waiting, impatiently tapping the slim cane across her palm.
"Pyjama trousers down I'm afraid, Saunders," she sighed.
"But Miss, pleease..."
"Saunders, look upon it as excellent training for your moral character. Now bend over at once." She smiled reassuringly at Saunders, who with great reluctance bent himself back over the bed. He felt her cool fingers hook inside the elastic of his pyjamas and drag them slowly down to his knees. His pale bottom had several thin pink lines on it. The cane felt cool as it tapped against his skin.
"Six more to go then."
"Five, Miss!" said Saunders in a small plaintive voice.
"Are you arguing with me, Saunders?" she asked softly.
It definitely hurt more without any protection. Saunders tearfully endured six more strokes of the cane on his unprotected hindquarters. Somehow he resisted the temptation to arise from his position. His shrieks of pain seemed only to cause Miss Valtesi to intensify her efforts. The last one fell with a most satisfying sound, like small arms fire. Saunders, dignity long forgotten, obliged with a piercing scream that any rising star of low budget horror movies would envy. His bottom criss-crossed with pink weals, Saunders shoulders shook as he sobbed.
"Come on, get up and stand by your bed please. If you can't take your punishment, young man, you will just have to learn to be impeccable in future and don't forget to thank me."
"Thank you Miss," said Saunders, tearfully.
"It's my pleasure, Saunders, Now, O'Driscoll, don't be shy, we'll have you next. Bend over please."
O'Driscoll betrayed no emotion on his handsome face as Miss Valtesi, in an unhurried manner as if savouring some pleasing sensation, applied 12 crisp strokes to his behind. The sound of twelve small explosions rang out as the thin cane made contact with taut buttocks. O'Driscoll made no sound except for an occasional sharp intake of breath.
"Thank you, Miss," he said softly, as if he could not quite trust himself to speak.
Lacey, the new boy, was called out next. He cried like his heart would break as he was beaten and his bottom seemed to have a life of its own as it attempted to escape the lashing cane. Miss Valtesi had never caned a young girl but she imagined somehow it would be similar to thrashing Lacey. Rarely did a boy's cries touch her heart as she always steeled against such emotional reactions, nevertheless the last two or three strokes fell a little softer than the rest.
Jevons howled himself hoarse but was shyly grinning at his companions within a few moments of getting up. Manners made less noise but seemed to take it more to heart, his face pale and eyes wet with tears. Then it was Hartnell's turn. As if unconsciously she had saved the best till last.
Really she couldn't be accused of favouritism. She would ensure he suffered at least as much as the rest, if not a little more so. Hartnell, trembling like some small woodland creature, was bent over the end of the bed, and over the stretched material of his pyjama bottoms the cane gently rested. It cracked across the small twin hemispheres of his behind. Like some small easily bruised fruit, his cheeks squirmed as the fierce pain bit into his consciousness. With superhuman endurance he held his breath, refusing to cry out. Despite the gentleness of his nature, there was something strong and enduring within. Again and again the cane fell, biting into his tautened flesh, Miss Valtesi pausing between each stroke to let the pain sink in, her mouth slightly twisted. Once more the cane whipped across his behind, and his body shuddered.
"That is twelve, Hartnell. You may stand up now."
Painfully, clutching somewhat tentatively his twin cheeks, Hartnell stood up and faced the schoolmistress. He even managed a small grin as he thanked her.
"My pleasure, Hartnell. Just look upon it as my birthday gift to you. Good night, boys, please let there be no repeat of this behaviour. School rules are there to be obeyed not ignored; any repeat of this disgraceful incident and I shall be forced to be very severe indeed."
She turned, after fixing the pyjama clad gourmets with her most gracious smile, and elegantly left the room. Manners turned to his still-grinning friend and said, "What's amusing you?"
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