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Part 3

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: 26 Mar 2018

In the gloom of the dorm, Weatherley bent over. Not as tightly as he would have had to for a real beating but enough to raise his pyjama jacket above his backside. Duckering took aim with Madman’s bat, practised the swing so that the blade would connect with both buttocks. Then he delivered the slap which cracked, suddenly too loud, and the six boys realised how vulnerable they were. But no one came.

Then it was Weatherley’s turn. He took the bat from the boy who had hit him and tapped it against his palm. Everyone knew that Weatherley would be head boy some day and this would be good practice for when he had caning rights. He knew that Duckering had not whacked him very hard and appreciated that he wasn’t going to return the slap any harder. He swung the bat, feeling the weight of it and then lined it up on Duckering’s backside. He noted that Duckering had bent over much farther than he had done.

The slap of the bat was a bit more than perfunctory, but a long way short of what Madman would routinely apply. Duckering rubbed himself a bit when he stood up and the game was over.

Except that the bat had to be returned. Duckering set off into the now almost pitch-black boarding house. There was a light on downstairs that hadn’t been lit when he first came out and he hesitated on the bottom stair, ready to dash back up. But there was no sound at all. Across the now dark playground he ran, his bare feet making no sound at all. Through the black school corridors and into the changing room.

The bat was safely back in the locker when he heard a noise from somewhere. His alarm made him freeze behind the office door until he realised that it was coming from the swimming pool. Someone was swimming. A master would have put the lights on, so it must be a boy. He really wanted to know who it was. But finding out would be too dangerous. He would never know who was risking a porter’s whipping by swimming in the middle of the night, in the darkness.

Back in the dorm, there was silence. Some of his friends at least were asleep.

He thought up the dare for Weatherley during the religious instruction lesson. Very suitable, he thought.

Right, Weatherley, he announced. You have to go to the chapel and bring back something to prove you were there.

Weatherley didn’t even look out of the window to check the coast was clear but set off into the darkness. There was a light on somewhere on the bottom corridor and he heard the porter moving about somewhere, but his way across the garden to the chapel was safe.

More than one master thought of Weatherley as the perfect Dartmoor boy. Tall and strongly built, he was always first pick when games teams were being chosen. His enthusiasm and drive on the rugby field were the envy of most other boys and the team acknowledged that he was the perfect captain. In the three weekly orders he always came in the top five and easily top in maths and physics. There could be little doubt that he would be head boy.

He had stopped marking off his cane strokes on the stripe of his belt. He couldn’t remember when exactly. Sometime last term. There hadn’t been many to add anyway. He just stopped thinking it was important. He supposed it was after Boggle caned him when he got back from the half term break. A caning that the other boys in the dorm knew nothing about.

He had arrived back bearing a letter from his father. He knew what it said. It said that he needed additional corporal punishment on top of the beating his father had given him. As he handed over the envelope, his backside was still tingling rather.

Boggle read the letter, stood up and reached for the cane that he kept in the large vase beside the fireplace. We’d better get on with it then, Weatherley. Hadn’t we?

Yes, sir.

Over the chair, then. Trousers down.

It was eight of Boggle’s juiciest. He made no sound as he was caned, but had no choice but to rub his bottom when he was allowed up. It crossed his mind fleetingly that this had been unfair and cruel, but then he shrugged it off and went back to being the perfect schoolboy. But he never again recorded his beatings on his belt.

The chapel door creaked as he pushed it open. He knew the inside like the back of his hand. He had been chosen as the altar boy in his second year and kept it up still. But he had stopped believing in God. There had been a time when he clenched his eyes shut during the prayers and willed the divinity to enter his soul. Nothing had happened.

He thought of taking a prayer book – but that would be too easy. What would be a daring, an extreme response to the dare? A candlestick? Maybe. But then the answer hit him.

Softly, he padded down the aisle, up the two sanctuary steps and reached the altar. The cross in its centre was only two feet high, but it was made of brass and heavy. He hoisted it down and set off back to the dorm.

He was about to cross the lawn between the chapel and the boarding house when he was aware that someone had come out and stood now in the moonlight, looking around. The porter! He shrank back into the shadow of the doorway and waited. From there he watched the porter. It was the younger of the two men and he was smoking.

He had never really looked at the porters as the men who had the job of whipping boys who deserved it. They were just the friendly types who worked around the place. Who brought round their mail every morning. He wondered now what it would be like to face a whipping. To strip off and submit to having the ordained number of strokes on the bare backside. And what must it be like to do it? He knew that the younger porter sometimes did it. And he was only a few years older than the prefects. Did he enjoy whipping naked boys? Weatherley bet himself that he did.

The porter finished his cigarette and wandered along the path on the far side of the lawn and finally disappeared into the West Side of the boarding house. Weatherley waited a minute and then dashed across the lawn and into the building.

Up in the dorm, the others were astonished when they saw what he had brought. A couple had deep misgivings about it. Wasn’t it sacrilegious to even touch the cross? But they kept those thoughts to themselves.

Taking it back, Weatherley was almost careless – just set out without taking any precautions at all. He felt almost as though the cross was protecting him. He allowed the chapel door to creak and practically ran up to the altar. He replaced the cross and set off back. But then had another thought and returned to the altar. He tipped the cross over so that it was resting on one of its arms. And left it there like that. As though he was signing a job well done.

Back in the dorm he was congratulated on a dare carried out with dash and brilliance. He climbed into bed and lay for almost an hour soaking in what he had done.

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