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Part 1

by Mr Hicks

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Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 21 Mar 2018

The six boys of Grenville dormitory were counting the small black pen strokes on the white stripe of their belts. Each pen mark denoted a stroke of the cane. There were a lot of marks.

Robson had more than any of the others. He had three hundred and fifty-two strokes. That was the number of times a cane had whipped his backside in the eight terms he had been at Dartmoor College.

Weatherley had the lowest number. He had one hundred and ninety-four.

Barlow and Hicks had six strokes marked in red. Those denoted the whipping they had received from the porter for being caught stealing sweets from the village shop. That had been applied to their naked bottoms and had been very painful indeed. The stripes had still been visible three weeks later.

Duckering and Davey were content with their totals of three hundred and three and three hundred and twenty-five respectively.

These six boys had been caned an awful lot since joining the college as twelve-year-olds. They didn’t, of course, remember, every one of their strokes and were a bit surprised how the totals had racked up.

Perhaps less surprising when you consider how discipline in the school was organised. There were no sanctions from either masters or prefects except the cane. Every form room had one: only a couple of masters never use them. The five prefects carried small, whippy canes as a kind of wand of office. The housemaster, Boggle Stirling, had a couple of canes of different sizes; the porters had a collection that was used as the ultimate sanction of a whipping on the bare backside, and it stood to reason that the headmaster who presided over all this must have at least one cane, though our six had never found out. Madman Donnelly, the PT instructor, used either a rubber-soled gymshoe or a wooden bat – but those didn’t count, no matter that they were much more painful than most canes.

The truth was that most canings hurt very little. When they had first come to the school and needed licking into shape, as it was called, barely a day passed without several boys being called to the front of the class and ordered to touch their toes for a couple of swishes with the classroom cane. Prefects too had the job of making these new boys into respectable college students. Their canes were no longer than two feet, quite thin, rather whippy, but incapable of inflicting too severe a punishment, unless the boy was made to lower his trousers and a good deal of effort was exerted.

Weatherley, who was the most reflective of our six boys, had spotted that pain was not the point of the punishment. Rather it was the break from whatever it was you had been doing and having to touch your toes or stretch over a desk. He had given some thought to what had been the most insignificant offence for which he had been given two swishes. The rule was that headings in their work must be underlined twice – using a ruler. The underlining must be broken where it met any below the line part of a g or a j. Once his underlining had gone straight through a g. Out at the front of the class he was ordered to touch his toes and the cane landed twice on his stretched trousers. Search as he might in the mirror, the cane had left no trace on the skin of his bottom, but his underlinings were perfect from then on.

But not all punishments were so mild. All six of the Grenville boys had amongst their pen marks the small strokes that were memories of the time they raided the Hawkins dorm across the passage. This had led to a general melee and the following morning all twelve boys were lined up outside Boggle’s study. They were caned in alphabetical order so Barlow was the first boy to go in.

Go to the chair there, please, and bend over it, the housemaster ordered. Barlow went to the small armchair in front of the window and prepared to lower himself on to it. And we’ll have your trousers down.

Outside in the passage, the waiting boys all heard the crack of the cane on Barlow’s thinly protected backside, and they heard him squeal like a puppy as the cane hit him another five times. When he came out, his face was twisted in pain and his hands rubbed futilely at the seat of his trousers.

That night, back in the dormitory, all six had spectacular stripes of bruise across their bottoms and there was no doubt any longer that the cane could inflict a serious punishment. There was some consolation in the fact that all six had taken the beating stoically, unlike Peters from Hawkins dorm who they had all heard plead not to be caned and then practically scream when the cane sliced into him.

This was not the only time boys from Grenville had been beaten seriously. The head boy was armed with a cane that was the equal of those in the form rooms and delegated to punish boys sent to him for any reason. All six boys had fallen foul of at least one of the three head boys so far. They were chosen for their athletic ability as much as anything, so a caning from them was bound to be a painful affair. It was always done very formally, in the fives court, with another prefect there as witness.

As Duckering discovered on his first evening back for the start of the second year, it was hard to remain bending as tightly as you were meant to when there was nothing to support you and the cane was lashing into the taut seat of your trousers with what seemed like every ounce of Pearce-Jenkins’ strength. But he could hardly complain, having tipped a new boy’s stuff out of a window and broken his new fountain pen.

So here were the six boys, lounging on their beds before getting undressed, one month into their third cricket term, and not one of them had been caned since the start of term. They hadn’t even been whacked by Madman, and he was always on the look-out for boys whose bottoms needed the slap of his gymshoe.

I tell you what, chaps, said Robson. Life is just too boring like this. It can’t go on. How come none of us has stepped out of line?

Maybe we’re too old to get swished, said Hicks. They reckon we’re responsible enough to do without it.

I kind of miss it, said Barlow. It’s like they’ve stopped watching us.

I certainly don’t miss having my arse swiped, said Weatherley, and the rest agreed.

But we haven’t had any adventure this term. Nothing to make life interesting.

We’ve got to do something, said Robson.

We could raid Hawkins again, said Davey. That was a good laugh.

Yes, but we were twelve years old then. We’re fourteen now.

We could have a tossing off race, said Barlow and was hit with a barrage of pillows and a chorus of ’fuck off’s.

My brother told me, said Hicks, of something his dorm did. They had a Dares Week, where each of them was dared to go and do something after lights out. He said that was a good laugh. Till they got caught.

Like what?

He said one of his dares was to climb up the fire escape with nothing on. Another one he told me was his pal was dared to fetch a cane out of Boggle’s study.

Did he manage it?

I think so.

That sounds like a jolly good idea, said Robson, and the rest agreed.

So, who’s going first? said Weatherley, and they all looked at Hicks. He sighed and accepted that he would have no choice, since it was his idea to begin with.

What do I have to do?

That first idea you mentioned sounded good. Get your pyjamas off and climb the West Side’s fire escape, said Robson.

And you have to stay up there till we signal, said Duckering.

They could see the fire escape from the farther wing of the boarding house from their window.

Right. But not too long, all right? It’ll be bloody cold up there.

He dropped his pyjamas on to his bed and looked out of the window at the mostly sleeping boarding house and the garden that lay between the two wings. There was no cover between his viewpoint and the fire escape that he would have to climb. Of course, fire escapes were strictly out of bounds: merely setting foot on one would be enough to earn a trip to Boggle’s study. And he had no idea whether anyone was still up and about, even though lights out for all the boys had been over an hour ago. He guessed that a porter would be on night duty, but his route would take him nowhere near their lodge.

He set off.

The stairs down to the nearest outside door were stone and cold to his bare feet. He knew that the door would be unlocked and he paused before stepping out on to the flagged path that crossed one side of the garden. There was a light on in the central part of the building but no sign of anyone being awake. Nothing was stirring.

The night air was cold on his naked body, but it had been a warm day and it wasn’t at all unpleasant. In no time at all he reached the foot of the metal stairs that led up, he guessed, to the dormitory on that end of the West Side. The metal was colder still to his feet but he pressed on and upwards.

Back in Grenville, the five watching boys saw him climb the fire escape and they kind of hugged themselves with excitement when he emerged at the top and waved to them. They weren’t going to signal him to come back too quickly, so then he did a little dance, turned and waggled his bum at them.

When the light went on, his heart jolted in his chest and his hands flew to his groin. His watching friends were horrified and then amused at his predicament. They saw the door open but couldn’t see who was there. Then Hicks disappeared into whatever room the fire escape led from.

He was confronted with Mr Mackie, the junior housemaster, with whom he had never had any dealings, given that his role in house discipline was limited to sleeping in three nights a week.

What on earth were you doing? he demanded.

Hicks mumbled the best excuse he could think of, which sounded pathetic and half-hearted.

I can’t ignore it, can I? What is your name?

Hicks, sir.

Very well, Hicks. I shall arrange for you to visit the porter in the morning. Now, back to bed.

Oh please, sir. Not a whipping. Could you not give me the cane instead, sir?

As it happened, young Mr Mackie had never actually caned a boy beyond a couple of mild swishes in his classroom, leave alone whipped a boy who was stark naked.

I mean, sir, I know I’ll have to have a beating, I suppose. But I’d much rather get it over with.

Mr Mackie was suddenly rather taken with the idea of caning Hicks’ bare backside. Everyone else was either asleep or off the school site. He had no idea whether he would be entitled to cane Hicks in his current state of undress, but actually, no one would know. There would be no need to enter the whacking in the punishment book, any more than form room swishings were. Maybe he should get the boy to put some clothes on first; but on the other hand a few strokes to his bare bottom would be a bit of a lark.

Go down to the masters’ common room and wait outside. Facing the wall. I’ll be there directly.

This end of the building was slightly strange to Hicks but he found his way easily enough. He had been to the common room a few times – not always to be punished – and he took up his position facing the wall, hoping against hope that no one else would come along and see him there.

True to his word, Mr Mackie came very quickly, ushered Hicks into the room and flicked the light on. Standing there, stark naked, he felt like a specimen under a spotlight. The master fetched a cane from the selection in the umbrella stand and faced him.

How many strokes do you deserve, Hicks?

Four, sir?

I don’t think so. Mr Mackie had acquired more authority since first apprehending Hicks. He almost chuckled. How about eight?

Oh sir, said Hicks. That’s too many. Please not eight. Six, sir?

Six it is, then. And with the same he pointed at a small armchair with the cane and Hicks was forced to go to it and prepare to lower himself over its back.

What was going through his mind as he bent over was Why did I say no clothes? It would have been hard enough in pyjamas.

What was going through Mr Mackie’s mind was the memory of when he had been in a very similar situation not all that long ago, stretching over a vaulting horse with trousers and underpants round his ankles. And the memory of the extraordinary pain the cane produced in his backside. And how it had made him yell. So now he would have to do something comparable to this boy, who undoubtedly deserved a good beating.

Hicks was a tall, strongly built boy and his backside was lean and muscular. Well able, the master thought, to take a serious caning. But he had no experience of this kind of thing. How much effort was one supposed to put into the stroke? He lay the last foot of the cane against the boy’s skin, taking a good aim. It would have to be the farthest end of the stick to have the most effect. He swung it back till his hand was level with his shoulder. Brought it down again. It would land just below the halfway point of both buttocks. But that would surely be too much. He didn’t want to draw blood. Nothing for it but to get on and do it.

He brought the cane back rather less than his first aiming swing. Held it a second, then brought it sharply down, flicking his wrist, the way he did when playing squash. It landed with a sharp crack exactly where he had aimed. But Hicks didn’t react at all. That wouldn’t do. It needed to be harder than that. So he raised the cane almost as far as his shoulder. Lashed it down hard and now the boy did react. Not verbally, but the slight shift of his haunches showed that he had felt it.

The next three strokes were progressively harder. By the fifth he discovered that he was swinging the cane as fast as he could from above his shoulder. And Hicks at last yelped a little in the back of his throat and his feet shuffled on the carpet. The last had to be the hardest and he whipped it in, hard and low, lower than the red marks that were already showing across the white skin.

Get up.

Hicks forced himself up off the chair. His bottom seemed to be exploding. Eventually, he would recognise that this was not the worst beating he had ever had, but just at that moment, when the fire was at its height, he couldn’t imagine a cane hurting more. He never rubbed himself after a caning until he was out of sight of the master who did it. But he was tempted to now. He no longer clutched at his groin, no longer caring whether the master saw his prick.

I don’t know what was going on, said Mr Mackie, but it must not happen again. Is that clear?

Yes, sir.

Then back to bed.

Hicks escaped into the dark of the passage and scampered back to Grenville, now giving full rein to his need to massage the still burning stripes across his backside.

He was greeted like a hero by the other boys, who admired his wounds and wanted to know the full details of his punishment. But at last it was over.

Right, then, lads, said Hicks. Who’s going next?

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