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Despite the 27 years that separated them, the two women who stood on the immaculate burgundy carpet, flanked by parquet flooring that had enjoyed the benefit of years of meticulous attention, in the warmly and subtly-lit wood-panelled corridor at Great Kingsford College for Girls, could well have passed for sisters. The young mother's looks belied the 45 years during which she had brightened the lives of those around her, whilst her 18-year old daughter, only 6 months away from her nineteenth birthday, could easily have passed for a young woman in her mid-twenties, having inherited not only her Mother's elegance and fresh-faced good looks, but also a hint of her Father's eye-catching maturity. In many ways, however, the two women were very different in terms of their individual styles, the elder of the two still favouring nuance over bold statement in terms of her attire, whilst the younger, even in the immaculate uniform which she was wearing, officially, for the last day, managed to create an appearance of discreetly-tailored defiance, the knot in her tie being just slightly out of line and the top button on her shirt being left undone, albeit invisibly to all but the most inquisitive onlookers. Their conduct also brought them close together in terms of age, since the very low murmur of their voices in the hushed environs of the corridor was characterised by warmth, humour, excitement and, to a degree, sadness, for this was Sophia Louise's last day at school, before leaving for her gap year and before going up to Aberdeen University to read Medicine. However, the day did not simply represent a critical waymark on Sophia Louise's passage through life, but also in the lives of her mother, Eleanor, and of the school. This was, in fact, also the last day in office for the Headmaster, Mr. Alistair Mackinnon, and the caretaker, Mr. Brian Harding, both of whom had been conspicuous at the school, not only because they constituted half of the permanent male members of staff, but also on account of the respective manners in which they had served this impressive educational establishment. In educational circles, the profile of the Great Kingsford College for Girls had risen steadily, from a high starting point, over the 28 years since the arrival of Mr. Mackinnon, at the age of thirty-seven. The career of this softly-spoken native of the Isle of Skye had included a three-year appointment at a college in Seville and a two-year post at a Lyons Lycée, before taking up his appointment as Head of the Foreign Languages Department, under the eagle eye of Miss Helena Frobisher. The formidable former Headmistress had been a keen and strict disciplinarian who had produced results, both academically and socially. She had been almost universally adored and revered by pupils, governors and parents alike and there were rumours that she was blessed with a wicked sense of humour. She had also been a widely-acknowledged judge of character and this had led to the appointment of Messrs. Mackinnon and Harding to their respective posts, for she had seen qualities in these two gentlemen that she admired. Although she had been a staunch defender of a campaign to advance the status and quality of life of young women through good education and training, with nurture of individuality, Miss Frobisher had also recognised how unhealthy and unbalanced it could be to expect up to 280 girls to go about their school lives in surroundings that did not in some way reflect the gender mix in Society and which did not offer good male role models outside the immediate families of her pupils. There was also a handful of former alumnae who could testify to her devastating accuracy with the cane, an implement that had been used on extremely rare occasions and the effect of which had been to instil a sense of genuine respect amongst pupils at the school, both for discipline and for academic standards. In point of fact, the cane had never, at any time, been used as a punishment for failure to achieve academically, since Miss Frobisher had felt that this was a barbaric misuse of an effective form of disciplinary control. Such restraint had not, however, extended to the use of The Dragon, as it had been labelled in school lore, in cases where girls had been foolish enough to lapse into unjustifiable violence, abuse or flagrant breaches of standards of public behaviour. She had always been meticulous in her investigation of misdeeds warranting corporal punishment. However, once she had reached her conclusion, execution of sentence had always been a swift, painful and memorable experience that had left its imprint in several ways upon the girls who had left her Study in tears, to inspect the outcome of their encounter with her. The appointment, two years later, of Mr. Mackinnon to the post of Headmaster, following Miss Frobisher's retirement, had sent ripples through the educational establishment and had raised concerns amongst certain parents, yet such was the trust in Miss Frobisher's judgment that no one was ready to deny him the chance to prove that the decision had been wise. He had not failed. In fact, he had excelled and both academic and disciplinary standards had not only been maintained, but improved. Interestingly, this had been achieved, ultimately, without the threat of corporal punishment, which he had abolished three years into his appointment, after a long discussion with Mrs. Helen Marlow, the young Physical Education teacher whom he had appointed to the post of Deputy Headmistress. He had not, in fact, used or ordered corporal punishment to deal with any pupil. His look alone seemed sufficiently effective to convey the legendary message of his predecessor and recourse to the penultimate sanction had never been needed. The departure of Mr. Harding was also of significance to the school, since he had overseen the running of the school estate in a manner that had encouraged pupils to take an interest in such often-overlooked matters. With his impeccable manners and great depth of knowledge of both horticulture and wildlife, he had introduced many a young mind to areas of interest that might otherwise have escaped them, earning high regard from teachers, pupils and parents alike. Eleanor had particular reason to remember Mr. Harding since, when he had arrived as a fairly young and not-long-married young man, he had been at the centre of a controversy that had resulted in the one case of what ultimately transpired to be a miscarriage of justice during Miss Frobisher's headship. However, the story was not as simple as it might at first have seemed. In 1975, just a year after his appointment, Mr. Harding had been suspended from his post pending investigation of a most embarrassing incident. His rugged and youthful weather-beaten looks had earned several admiring gazes from girls at the school, particularly those on the point of departure for university, whom he had unwittingly prompted to ponder, in greater depth than was possibly healthy for them, the freedoms that lay ahead of them. Flirtatious remarks had been addressed to him, all of which he had brushed off, somewhat bashfully, with a smile and a rapid return either to a safe neutral subject or to his work. There was, however, one girl at the Great Kingsford College for Girls who had not played by the rules and who had, in fact, earned the loathing of many of her peers due to the high-handed and cavalier attitude she had adopted towards 'that gardener'. Julia Beaulieu lacked nothing in the self-confidence department and, whilst this enhanced her attractiveness to younger, less confident pupils, it had earned a healthy measure of disdain from older peers, who had come to like Mr. Harding and who appreciated his genuine and totally innocent desire to encourage them to discover the wonders of Nature that were there in their own gardens. Julia also had an unproven record as a deceitful manipulator. Circumstantial and anecdotal evidence was there in abundance, but Miss Frobisher was not the sort of woman to act on such unsubstantiated material and she had, until the final dénouement of this unfortunate episode, confined herself to reminding the arrogant girl that pupils at her school were strictly forbidden to abuse any member of her staff. Julia also engaged in a number of unapproved extra-curricular activities, including supposedly secret assignments with her boyfriend, whom she would meet amidst the cluster of outbuildings from which Mr. Harding ran his side of school life so efficiently. These, however, were a well-guarded secret and only two pupils had spotted her one lunchtime when, on the pretext of feeling slightly unwell, she had asked to be excused from the communal meal so that she could go and rest for a short while. The two pupils in question had been Patricia O'Connor, a vivacious and highly popular girl from Co. Wicklow in Ireland, and Eleanor, whom she had befriended at a very early stage during their shared school years. They had become inseparable contrasts in just about every way and they were extremely well-liked by the other girls, unlike the distant and, as it turned out, deeply unhappy Julia Beaulieu. The discovery of a pair of green knickers, matching an item missing from Julia's inventory of clothing, in the inside pocket of Mr. Harding's ex-RAF greatcoat, had shocked Polly, his wife, who had felt it her duty to bring this matter first to his attention and then to that of Miss Frobisher. The latter's reaction had, initially, been one of total bewilderment, but, anxious to satisfy the demands both of justice and of the need to maintain a good reputation, she had decided to investigate the matter herself, without recourse to outside agencies. As it turned out, this proved to have been one of the wisest moves in her long career and it spared an honest and decent family the shame of wrongful prosecution and public humiliation. Miss Frobisher resembled an 'old school' nursing sister, a professional whose ability to accumulate and sift through information from the most unlikely and, in the view of the majority of onlookers, impossible sources was legendary. These skills she applied with the utmost finesse in her investigation, during which, as a precaution, she had suspended Mr. Harding on full pay. Such was her confidence in his innocence and such were her powers of persuasion that she was able to convince Polly very quickly that the presence of young female underwear in her husband's greatcoat had been the result of schoolgirl malice, not of male perversion. It had taken the best part of three weeks for Miss Frobisher to complete her enquiries, which had culminated in the presence of a senior girl in her Study one Wednesday morning, two days before the end of term and her departure for summer holidays, before embarking upon her final year at school. She had sat at the desk, recited the facts as she had found them and then waited for Julia to explain how her underwear had found its way into the caretaker's great coat. The denials were vehement, but the weight of evidence was beginning to build against her. The spare key to the caretaker's office had been found in Julia's locker, which she could not explain and which, she claimed, had been a plant. Then there was the piece of dark green wool found on a splinter of wood close to where Mr. Harding's coat had been hanging. This matched the fabric of Julia's cardigan, a garment that featured a small damaged area close to a pocket, an area that was almost invisible and that was at exactly the height where the fragment had been found. Then there was the single sheet of paper found in Julia's locker, bearing the names of Mr. Harding and one of his junior assistants, along with imprints from what had been the page above it, revealing prose that would not find its way onto publications on the lower shelves in magazine racks. In her usual manner, Miss Frobisher had let Julia weigh up the evidence for herself. However, Julia denied any knowledge of the offence and was still protesting her innocence as she was ordered to stand in the centre of the room and bend down, holding her ankles. Knowing the consequences of the humiliation that would have resulted from failure to comply with this order, Julia had suppressed her protest at that point and had walked to the centre of the room where, as many of her peers would have felt to have been long overdue, she had heard the door lock mechanism close, the unmistakable sound of the cupboard door opening and footsteps approaching her from behind, preceding the lifting of her skirt, which had been folded over her back. She had tussled with anger and fear as the cane brushed very lightly on the seat of her knickers and then tapped out six lines with the lightest of touches. Julia had heard the legends relating to The Dragon and to the way in which it always forecast where it was planning to land. It came, therefore, as no surprise when each of the six gasp-generating impacts landed exactly at the intended spot and, with tears running freely down her cheeks, Julia had ultimately and painfully left the Study in silence and total defiance, refusing either to acknowledge her wrongdoing or to apologise. It was at this juncture that a worrying shadow of doubt had crossed Miss Frobisher's mind, as she returned The Dragon to its lair for what she had intended to be the last time in its working life. She remained intellectually convinced that justice had been done and she added her red ink entry to the slim punishment register, in which no girl's name had appeared twice, before closing the book and returning it to its locked drawer. There had been little sympathy for Julia amongst the pupils, some of whom approved openly of the punishment that had been meted out, considering that it was the least that the unpleasant girl had deserved for her treatment, not only of Mr. Harding but also of other girls at the school. Patricia and Eleanor were discreetly silent on the subject, uncharacteristically so in the case of Patricia, and it was this that caught the observant eye of Miss Frobisher, who was feeling increasingly uneasy about the entire matter, with the growing conviction that Julia Beaulieu had been 'fitted up' for the offence. Despite the fact that the Headmistress knew full well that Julia had certainly earned more than that caning by her other misdeeds, this did not sit comfortably with a woman of integrity, wedded inseparably to the notion of fair play, and she resolved to talk to Julia again after the summer holidays, once the girl had returned from a planned six-week stay in Italy with her boyfriend's family. Miss Frobisher also resolved to have all three girls, Julia, Patricia and Eleanor, in the Study and to rely on her highly individual inquisitorial technique to elicit the truth from these three young women at the start of their final year at school. The news that a passenger train in Ireland had been derailed just south of Greystones, causing multiple fatalities, brought a sense of deep shock to all the pupils at the school, but to none more than it had to Eleanor and Miss Frobisher and it was, therefore, in an atmosphere very different from that which she had intended that the Headmistress had called Eleanor and Julia to her Study to announce that she, like all the pupils, had been shocked and saddened by the untimely and tragic loss of Patricia. In the circumstances, she said, vital evidence that could possibly have shed light on the unfortunate incident involving the now-reinstated Mr. Harding was unavailable, unless, of course, either of the two girls had further light to shed on it. Both remained totally silent and Eleanor, skilled in mastering her feelings, displayed not a hint of the turmoil that had taken hold inside her. Thus it was that both girls left the Study and, ten months later, left the school for their respective university places. After a lengthy round of farewells, Mr. Mackinnon finally made his way, somewhat wearily, along the corridor to his Study, where he found Eleanor and Sophia Louise waiting, as requested, as girls would once have done, trembling, to see Miss Frobisher. He smiled warmly and ushered them inside. Once the door had been closed behind them, he showed them to the leather settee and invited them to sit down in this masculine oasis in an area dominated almost entirely by things feminine. Eleanor shivered almost imperceptibly as she adjusted her olive green silk dress and Sophia Louise felt a strange sense of unease in her Mother as she took her place alongside her. Both women allowed their gaze to wander around the room, past the door to the annex that was slightly ajar, quickly past The Dragon's lair and along the bookshelves towards the wide lattice window. Sophia Louise was reminded of her Father's magnificent Study at Pendene Manor, as was Eleanor, but not so much on account of the furnishings as for other reasons. Sophia Louise noticed how her Mother had shivered slightly as her gaze had fallen upon The Dragon's lair and, whilst Mr. Mackinnon was tidying up, having asked the ladies to wait for just a couple of moments, she whispered into Eleanor's ear, asking if everything was alright. Eleanor flushed slightly and, whilst Mr. Mackinnon's back was turned to them, whispered in reply about the legendary creature had once resided in the lair. It is a great mistake to underestimate the hearing of an experienced teacher, particularly a Headmaster groomed by no lesser a person than Miss Frobisher. Mr. Mackinnon turned round and looked at Eleanor and Sophia Louise. He smiled in a manner that was so inscrutable as almost to be sinister. Eleanor shivered again and Sophia Louise found her curiosity increasing. "So, Mrs. Penbury, you remember the legend of The Dragon, do you?" One could have been forgiven for believing that Eleanor was about to go down with a cold, such was the frequency with which she was beginning to shiver. She returned a wan smile and giggled in slight embarrassment. "But I understand that you were never acquainted with it, Mrs. Penbury", the Headmaster added. Eleanor blushed slightly and shook her head, unusually lost for words. However, even allowing for the dread that the very mention of the cane had induced amongst potential beneficiaries of its corrective power, this was not in character and Mr. Mackinnon knew this full well, having come to know Eleanor better than she realised during the shared time in which they had followed their respective paths at the school. He recalled the Valentine card that had been slid under the door to his office at the school, also the strange confession letter that had been sent to Miss Frobisher on the day of her retirement, both of which had been written in a very distinctive italic hand, with a pen of good quality fitted with an unusual nib. Mr. Mackinnon sat back in his leather armchair, his gown giving him the appearance of an American judge as he looked kindly, but quizzically towards his two guests. Suddenly, as if taken by surprise, he stood up and walked towards the lair with a purposeful stride. Eleanor was in a state of almost visible shiver by the time the door to the cupboard had been unlocked and it was only when a beautifully bound leather volume was withdrawn from it that she began to relax. She was, nonetheless, distracted, for she failed to notice that the door had not been locked again, an omission the significance of which ought not to have been overlooked. Mr. Mackinnon walked to the desk and placed the volume on the polished surface. He opened it to the flysheet and then looked over to Eleanor. "I'm sure you must realise that it's Miss Frobisher's 95th birthday in a couple of weeks' time and we decided that we wanted to present her with something very special to remind her of her time here. Since you were held by her to be an almost perfect role model, a girl for whom she had the greatest respect and admiration in the way in which you conducted yourself as a pupil, I was wondering if you would like to add your signature to the gift card please." Eleanor smiled nervously and nodded enthusiastically. She rose and walked over to the desk, where she picked up the volume of Dr. Johnson's travels in the Hebrides and examined it cursorily, but appreciatively, before putting it down again. Mr. Mackinnon offered a ballpoint pen for the signature, but Eleanor protested that such a gift had to be signed with something more elegant. She winked with a familiarity begotten of nervousness, rather than bad manners, and Sophia Louise looked on in bemusement as her Mother returned to look in her bag, where she found her treasured Parker fountain pen, given to her by her grandfather in 1971 at the start of her penultimate year at the College. Carefully, she removed the cap and, in her inimitably precise style, wrote her name in full … Eleanor Louise Waddingham … She let out a faint gasp as she realised what she had written and quickly penned in … Penbury … in brackets after the name. Eleanor's writing had always been pleasing on the eye, reflecting great care and attention, but her italic-style writing was highly distinctive and was reserved for the most special occasions. She had only used it very rarely in her lifetime, but even as she was writing her name, she saw a card and a hand-written note slide across the desk alongside the book. Without looking up, she blushed with an intensity that took Sophia Louise completely by surprise. Mr. Mackinnon, who was both something of an amateur expert in graphology and a very discerning judge of people, was not so surprised. His gaze joined that of Eleanor and of Sophia Louise, who had now joined them at the desk, as the three documents were compared. There was no mistaking that all were written in the same hand. Mr. Mackinnon smiled benignly at Eleanor and invited her to sit down again, but she felt almost unable to move as she stood, like a penitent schoolgirl, in front of the desk and looked, half open-mouthed, at the Headmaster. Mr. Mackinnon sat back in his leather armchair and gazed intently at Eleanor. "Would you prefer that Sophia Louise found other things to do while we clear the air here, Eleanor?" It had always been known at school that girls who were about to be subject to corporal punishment were addressed by their forenames, not, as customarily, by their surnames. Despite the fact that she had never been disciplined at school, the detailed reports she had heard from caned girls had left her totally familiar with the ritual and it was for this reason that, for the third time in her life, she realised that the cane was hovering metaphorically over her in a disciplinary setting. Sophia Louise grinned wickedly, wiggled her hips and said to her Mother, in a stage whisper…….. "Oooh Mum, have you been a naughty girl? Never mind, you're no stranger to the cane are you?" Sophia Louise and Eleanor blushed in harmony as the significance of what had been said sank in to Mr. Mackinnon, whose smile was only visible from the inside. As on the two previous such occasions, a sense of a longing to 'do the right thing' took over Eleanor's thoughts at that moment, bringing with it the renowned dignity and self-control that were the hallmarks of her character. She fixed Mr. Mackinnon in her gaze and adopted a posture that was both submissive and dignified. "May I speak, please, Sir?" A comforting, soft Skye accent approved her request and Eleanor embarked upon a full statement as to how, given the fact that Julia Beaulieu appeared, through lies, deceit and bullying, totally to have evaded justice and retribution for her wrongdoing, Patricia O'Connor and she had decided that something had to be done. She then went on to describe how she and Patricia had heard Julia bragging about having made love to Mr. Harding, something they knew full well to be malicious nonsense. Nonetheless, they had then acted totally irrationally and without thought of the consequences of misinterpretation. They had taken Julia's underwear, removed the label, then snagged her cardigan on a nail and torn a small piece of wool from it at just the right place so that the assumption would be made that Julia had been in the caretaker's office. They had engaged Mr. Harding's attention and whilst Patricia had sought information that kept the caretaker totally preoccupied, Eleanor had slipped the underwear into a greatcoat pocket that he rarely used and had then snagged the piece of green wool onto a splinter in a wooden upright. Eleanor had then exploited the absence of Patricia and the caretaker to remove a spare key and slip it into her pocket. After a coded silent signal to Patricia, the two girls had then left the caretaker and made their way back to Julia's locker, where they had planted the false evidence, having wiped the key with great care before doing so. It was now Sophia Louise's turn to stand, open-mouthed, as the slight tarnish appeared on her Mother's character. She giggled, partly out of nervousness and partly out of pure mischief. Eleanor was now speechless, but was totally in control of herself and, as when her husband had caned her nine years earlier for the first time, she awaited the next move passively and in silence, standing with her hands clasped behind her back. Mr. Mackinnon looked kindly but sternly at her. "I feel that we all benefit from having heard your true version of the facts, Eleanor. Thank you. Now, the matter would appear to be tied off once and for all but……." Mr. Mackinnon rose from his chair and walked towards the window. Eleanor's and Sophia Louise's gaze followed him as he took up a position overlooking the quadrangle, then turned to face them. "I know something of you, Eleanor, and that something tells me that, for the sake both of Patricia, whom you loved as a close friend, and for Julia, whom, despite what you saw as mitigating circumstances, you wronged, you are not comfortable with leaving the situation like this." Eleanor looked down at the floor for a moment, then lifted her gaze again and fixed Mr. Mackinnon attentively in it. "I was once in a similar situation with my husband, Mr. Mackinnon, and at that time, once I had acknowledged what needed to be done, I was happy to leave it to him. Now, you are in authority, so I will leave it to you, acting on behalf of Miss Frobisher, who……." Eleanor had been about to say "… obviously isn't able to see justice done …" when she heard a door creak behind her. She turned and saw a tall, elegantly-dressed elderly lady standing there. She put her hand to her mouth and gasped. "M-m-m-i-ssss F-f-f-robisher!!!!" Sophia Louise giggled uncontrollably and muttered something about how she would soon know what a sort of a pain in the arse The Dragon, still the stuff of legend at a school that had inexplicably acquired the nickname of Spankhurst College, could be and how fortunate it was that her Father wasn't there when none other than Mr. James Penbury followed Miss Frobisher into the room, adding a totally different dimension to the scene. Sophia Louise fell very quiet under her Father's stern, silent rebuke. Mr. Mackinnon took control of the scenario and looked Eleanor in the eye for a few moments, before turning his gaze to Sophia Louise and reminding her, firstly, that her parents had not paid good fees for her education only to have her acting so tactlessly and, in the circumstances, rudely. He then turned back to Eleanor and looked once again at her in the kind but authoritative manner that had an effect similar to, but by no means as intense as, that look which her beloved James was wont to give her. "Eleanor, I am not going to impose a punishment on you, since you are a married adult woman and the episode is long since ended. However, if you feel that this is necessary, then it will be done." Eleanor held her breath for a few moments as she struggled to summon up courage for what she knew she would have to endure. After a seemingly endless silence, she addressed herself calmly to Mr. Mackinnon: "I wish to close this episode of injustice in the only appropriate manner, by accepting the same punishment as was wrongly meted out to Julia Beaulieu." "Very well", replied Mr. Mackinnon, "it shall be so. However, I see an order of priority here that is different from that which existed at the time of the original punishment. You are now a married lady and your husband has the right of first choice as to who should punish you". James had said very little and had listened with his undivided attention to the discussion that had taken place. He cupped his chin in his hand for a few moments and then turned to Miss Frobisher. "I believe", he started, "that Miss Frobisher is the wronged party here, as much as Julia Beaulieu, since her good name and her reputation, not to mention her self-confidence, could have suffered as a result of Eleanor Waddingham's well-intentioned, but wrongful actions. Hers has to be the choice." James stood back and Miss Frobisher looked at the people in the Study, before announcing in soft, confident voice, in crystal-clear tones: "This is not a case of one individual against another, but of a girl who, foolishly and in a moment of silly rashness, betrayed very serious and honourable principles that are, I know, very precious to her and to her family. I believe that discipline is administered by the school and, since Mr. Mackinnon is the Headmaster who acts in the name of the Emmeline Pankhurst Sixth Form College for Girls, he is now the person who should administer the punishment. Julia Beaulieu received six strokes". James nodded discreetly to give his assent and this Mr. Mackinnon acknowledged with a brief reciprocated nod. The Headmaster then went on to ask all present, other than Eleanor and Miss Frobisher, to move to the adjoining room and close the door. This they did, promptly, and Eleanor began to tremble slightly as Miss Frobisher moved behind the desk, to where the Headmaster had been standing. Mr. Mackinnon walked back to the window, lowered the blind, then walked to the corridor exit door, which he locked. He then instructed Eleanor in a quiet, authoritative voice, to bend over the desk. As the Headmaster walked towards The Dragon's lair, Eleanor walked up to the desk, smiling weakly at Miss Frobisher. The latter had always been of the view that, once something had been decided, it should be dealt with promptly and did not, therefore, waste time on words, but held out her well-manicured hands, smiled kindly at Eleanor and briefly took hold of the younger woman's hands before releasing them to take what she knew would be a very necessary hold on the edge of the desk. Eleanor closed her eyes as she heard the cupboard door open and she was acutely conscious of the quiet footfalls of the Headmaster as he approached. She heard the unmistakable sound of the cane being placed on the desk alongside her and she shuddered instinctively as she recalled how she had looked away from the cane when James had laid it on the bed alongside her, all those years ago. Mr. Mackinnon walked behind Eleanor and looked across at Miss Frobisher, who nodded slightly before the back of Eleanor's dress was raised and the beautifully-shaped bottom, enclosed in cream-coloured slightly-elasticated full briefs, was exposed to his view. He masked his thoughts and feelings extremely well, although Miss Frobisher was able to read his mind perfectly. So perfectly in fact, that she was not in the least concerned about any hint of impropriety, for this was a man whom she knew well and whom she understood as few others did. Mr. Mackinnon walked back to the desk and picked up the cane quietly. Eleanor was aware of movement in her vicinity, but it was the soft touch of the rattan across the mid-line of the seat of her knickers that gave her the final warning of the start of the punishment she had awaited for 27 years. As on the previous such occasion, she heard the whistle of the cane, as it sliced through the air, in exquisite detail before her body tensed rigidly as the cane found its mark along the equator of her bottom. Her legs buckled slightly and she clenched and tensed her buttocks alternately in an attempt to dissipate the sharp pain. When, thirty years previously, Mr. Mackinnon had last used the cane, he had made a point of marking out the boundaries of the caned area with the first two strokes. Thus it was that the second stroke landed at the very base of the buttocks, at the edge of the knicker fabric. Eleanor let out a muted yelp as it landed and held firmly to the desk. Miss Frobisher resisted strong compassionate urges for the time being, whilst the Headmaster watched the profile of Eleanor's bottom as raised weals formed. He then proceeded to administer four final strokes with The Dragon, strokes that had a profound effect upon Eleanor as she squirmed, trying to ensure that the desire to 'see the job done properly' overruled the longing to stand up and run. Her efforts were successful, but only just! She felt her dress being lowered gently over her bottom, then vaguely heard the sound of The Dragon being returned to its final resting place, never to be used again. The sound of the lock closing floated in the pink haze of pain and relief that was filling her body and mind. Her sense of submission to what she knew to be right had the effect almost of elation and her body, as on that previous occasion, was beginning to give her tell-tale signs of her need of her husband's careful and loving attention. Carefully, she moved her hands back to her side of the desk and eased herself into a standing position, wincing as the fabric of her knickers rubbed momentarily over her weals. She had heard the door to the Annex open, but her thoughts were far away, her eyes looking mistily towards the window. She felt a tissue being pressed gently into her hand, then the comforting embrace of Miss Frobisher, who kissed her cheek softly and whispered "I'm proud of you, Eleanor. I always knew you would do the right thing." The next event in this bizarre sequence probably shook Eleanor almost as much as the caning had done, for there, alongside her husband, was not only Sophia Louise, but a tall, radiantly warm-looking woman with rich auburn hair that was just beginning to exhibit hints of grey. Eleanor's mind worked frantically to work out who she was before this woman walked over to her, embraced her with warmth and sincerity, then whispered quietly into her ear: "We both deserved it, Elle." Eleanor came quickly to her senses and looked in utter astonishment. "Julia?" The tears flowed freely as the two women embraced one another, the events of an earlier generation now finally resolved properly. Their embrace was close and any hint of former antipathy had long since vanished. When, eventually, they released one another, they looked deeply into one another's eyes, then exchanged kisses on the cheek that both came to cherish as symbols of wrongs put right. The final surprise in a day that had proved to be something of a watershed for Eleanor came when a middle-aged couple joined the other six people in the Study. Eleanor knew instantly that these were probably the people who had suffered the most harm of all and went immediately across to Polly and embraced her with both penitence and affection. She felt almost too uncomfortable to look Mr. Harding in the eye, but he smiled at her and took her hand gently, before giving a handshake that wrote the final line under the entire affair. The small group of people moved from the Study along the corridor into the quadrangle, where a warm late summer afternoon warmth embraced them. Across the quadrangle, the attention of a black and white cat perched precariously on a balustrade was temporarily distracted by the new arrivals, allowing sufficient time for a pair of plump collared doves to flap their way heavily and noisily into the sky. The cat, for which hunting such prey was a totally unnecessary luxury in dietary terms, looked dismissively at a feather floating slowly to the ground, then disappeared silently into the intricate architectural complexity of the College buildings.
For many in the UK who are are Corporal Punishment enthusiasts the school scenario is often synonymous with that interest. Perhaps that interest grew from evocative memories...... The classroom.... A memorable Headmistress........ The Strict School Teacher ready to instil discipline ...... The uniforms.......... The Rules..... The Discipline...... And what tales those School Punishment Books could tell...