The game had been going for almost two hours. Gregg had been the banker for over half an hour and he was the only one fully dressed. Meredith, the previous banker, had managed to hang on to everything except his jacket, tie and both shoes. Davidson, Wilson and Henson were bare-chested with only trousers and pants to go. Grey and Lang had had mixed fortunes, but at that moment Lang had his shirt and one sock as well as his trousers, while Grey was minus the sock. Cook had been stripped naked, but had managed to win back his pants, and Potter was naked and his left buttock glowed red where he had paid for his losses with slaps of Gregg's hand.
Only last week the old man had come into tea and announced that from then on any boy caught playing strip pontoon, or any card game that involved betting, would be caned. It was a stupid and juvenile craze and he was determined to stop it. But, as with any craze, the urge to play was still strong and one group of third formers had challenged themselves to a final session on Sunday afternoon when they should have been going for a walk. They set out from school in the normal way but doubled back to the San, the old sanatorium at the top of the gardens where some of them slept, and soon the game was in full swing.
Gregg dealt the cards and everyone looked at what they had.
"Stick," said Cook, reluctantly.
"Twist," said Lang. King of spades. "_f_u_c_k_. Bust." And he threw his cards on the bed. Then carelessly peeled off his remaining sock.
"Twist," said Henson. Three of diamonds. "Twist." Ten of hearts. "Bust." And his cards were dumped. He stood up and unbuttoned his trousers, stepped out of them and dropped them on the bed behind him.
"Twist," said Potter. Eight of spades. "Stick."
"Stick," said Wilson.
"Twist," said Grey. Two of clubs. "Twist." Eight of hearts. "Stick."
"Twist," said Meredith. Jack of diamonds. "Well, _f_u_c_k_ me." And he threw down the cards. Unconcerned, he ripped a sock off.
"Stick," said Davidson.
Gregg turned over his two cards. Ace of hearts and three of clubs. He twisted. Four of spades. Twisted again. Ace of spades. Twisted again. Seven of clubs. "Yes," he crowed. "Five card trick. That's three from the lot of you, please." And he rubbed his hands together. It was a wipe-out!
Meredith peeled off his socks and then removed his shirt. Lang took his sock and shirt off and then stood up and dropped his trousers. Then Grey also removed his shirt, his trousers, and finally his pants, peeling them down over his backside.
The rest were in deep _s_h_i_t_. Davidson stripped off his trousers and pants. When it had been Potter getting his bottom spanked he had been keen enough, but now it was his turn.
"Come to daddy," said Gregg, grinning and patting his hands on his thighs. Davidson lowered himself across Gregg's lap. Across the white skin of his buttocks were the remaining marks from two, if not three, canings. Gregg raised his hand high and brought it down full force on the taut left cheek.
Henson followed him over Gregg's knee, and then Wilson, whose backside also carried the evidence of recent corporal punishment. Both received a hefty slap. Cook was now naked for the second time. His two slaps made him wriggle across Gregg's thighs, but the debt was paid.
And then it was Potter's turn again. The last four hands had ended with him being spanked and now he had to have three more slaps. Reluctantly, he lowered himself into position and tensed his muscles in preparation for the sting of Gregg's hand. But it never landed.
"Well, well, well. Look what we have here." Boyson and Reece, two senior prefects. There could be no mistake about what was happening. Cards spread out on a bed; eight boys in various stages of undress, including six who were stark naked, and one of them draped over another boy's knee about to get his arse smacked. There wasn't an excuse that they could come up with.
They begged and pleaded, but it was no use. Even when they offered to take the cane from the two prefects instead of being reported it was no good. The bidding went as high as ten strokes but the prefects were adamant: they had to be reported to the old man.
"And I don't fancy being in your trousers," said Reece.
"No," said Boyson. "I'd put my trunks on under my pants if I was you."
And that was where the fatal idea came from. All of them had been caned in the past. Most of them had been caned by the old man. Four of them – Davidson, Gregg, Lang and Meredith – had, on one memorable occasion, received six strokes with only their pyjamas for protection and the stripes had lasted nearly a fortnight.
We had to report to the study after tea. Because it was Sunday there was no prep and the whole form were on tenterhooks waiting for us to get it. I was _s_h_i_t_ting myself because after the last time the old man caned me I'd vowed never to get it again, but here I was. It was an absolute certainty that we'd get six at least.
After Reece and Boyson had gone there was a lot of discussion about what Boyson had said about putting trunks on. It was tempting. That cane was a complete _f_u_c_k_ing bastard and anything that cut the pain a bit would be worth it. The trouble was that he always made you pull your shirt out of the back of your trousers, and I was pretty sure there'd be a good chance of him spotting a pair of swimming trunks. Some of the others agreed with me, but others reckoned it was worth the risk, especially Davidson who'd had the stick more often than most of us. We tried experimenting to see if you could see the trunks when you bent over the way he would make us, but it wasn't really conclusive. I wasn't prepared to take the risk. The cane hurt like _f_u_c_k_, but God knows what he'd do to anyone he found trying to pad himself.
In the end I wasn't sure who went through with the plan and who didn't. I was pretty sure Henson was going to do it and Davidson, but the rest weren't boasting about it. Of course, as it turned out, there were four of them. And did they _f_u_c_k_ing regret it!
We lined up outside his study straight after tea, but he kept us waiting nearly an hour before he turned up to whack us. I suppose he thought that would make it worse, and when you're standing there on your own it does, but with nine of us it was easy enough to keep each other's spirits up. Cook was wetting himself because he'd never had the cane before from the old man, but he'd seen the stripes on other lads and wasn't keen to feel it for himself.
It was tough on him because, as usual, we had to be whacked in alphabetical order, which meant he was first. Needless to say we were all agog to hear how many whacks he was going to give us and whether he would squeal or not. One thing I'll say for the old man, you never got a very long lecture. It was: "Anything to say? Bend over." You could hear the cane cracking across Cook's backside halfway down the corridor and every stroke made him yell. Not that anyone was going to blame him for that. There were plenty of bigger lads than him who couldn't take a stroke of the old man's cane without squealing. But we were mighty relieved when it stopped after just four. He must be going soft, I thought. When Cook came out you could tell it had been a right _f_u_c_k_ing corker. He was rubbing at his arse with both hands and he did this peculiar little dance, jumping up and down and swearing under his breath.
Davidson went in and of course the next thing was we all wanted to see the stripes on Cook's bum. If there was a group of you getting it you always had to wait outside till every boy had been done, and it was usually safe enough to get a quick flash of the Marks across everyone's backside in between. The four weals were parallel and absolutely terrific – swollen up already and turning to really dark purple, less than half an inch between each of them and covering the lower half of both cheeks. The old man was a genius when it came to caning; there was no one else to touch him.
Davidson came out and Grey went in, and of course what everyone wanted to know was – had he spotted the trunks?
"A _f_u_c_k_ing cinch," said Davidson, and when he flashed his backside it was obvious that having an extra layer of clothing made it much less painful. I wished I'd put my trunks on, but it was too late now.
After Grey it was Gregg, and it was noticeable that he squealed a bit on the last stroke – and he was the first since Cook who hadn't put his trunks on. And when he showed us the stripes after Henson had gone in the difference was obvious straight away, and I was even more sorry that I hadn't done it.
Henson came out rubbing at his arse but he was grinning as well and I thought, you _f_u_c_k_ing wanker.
My guts were churning as I went in and shut the door. The old man was standing in front of the desk with the cane bent into an arc between his fists.
"Come and bend over, Lang," he said. "Shirt out of the back of your trousers, please."
I pulled my shirt clear and went across to where the two worn patches in the carpet showed where you had to bend over. The sight of them always made me think of the hundreds of boys who'd had their backsides caned in this room. I was never sure whether I found the thought comforting or not. Anyway I braced my feet apart and bent over. I held on to my ankles and tried to relax the muscles of my arse because that was supposed to make the cane hurt less. As usual, he hauled my blazer up over my back and then the shirt. There was a gentle little breath of air on the small of my back and I could feel the tip of the cane touching me on the right cheek as he took aim.
Seconds later the cane exploded across my bottom and the breath was forced out of me. I know I gasped a bit but I don't think I yelled. The second was worse, but I was better prepared this time. The third was the lowest yet and hurt like _f_u_c_k_. The pause before the last was a bit longer and then it came ripping into me and I'm pretty sure I yelled, but not too loud.
And then it was over. I always thought it was funny how stiff my legs felt after a beating. It was as if the floor was half a mile away and I had to force my feet to move. Outside, I gave myself a bit of a rub and resigned myself to waiting for the sting to fade into the hot glow that was just about the only pleasant part of being beaten. I could feel each of the four stripes burning across my bottom like acid and I didn't take much notice of Meredith and the others going in and coming out. Somewhere in the background the sound of the cane cracking was going on. But then Wilson came out rubbing at his arse and we'd all been done.
When the old man came out and said he wanted all of us back in the study it never occurred to me that he'd rumbled the fact that some of us had swimming trunks on. I don't know what I expected really though I wondered whether he had changed his mind and was going to give us a couple more whacks each.
We all filed in and stood facing him. The cane was lying across all the paper on his desk, so I reckoned the beating was over.
"Something has happened this evening that I never thought to see in this school." He paused to let this sink and looked at us one by one. "At least one of you has put on extra clothing so that the cane would hurt less." It was like a horse had kicked me in the guts. "You will all face the wall behind you, lower your trousers and then bend over and touch your toes."
The blood was roaring in my ears as we all did as we were told. I bent over like I had done to be caned and the suspense was the worst moment of my life up till then. I heard him start down at the far end.
"Very well. Get dressed, Cook. Stay where you are, Davidson. And you, Grey. Stand up, Gregg. Get dressed. Remain bending, Henson. Get dressed, Lang. And you, Meredith."
I felt his hands hoisting up my blazer and then my shirt. A finger pulled at the elastic of my pants.
"Stay where you are, Potter. Get dressed, Wilson." Four of us were still touching our toes. "You five may go," the old man said and they filed out leaving us to our fate.
"Stand up." We straightened up and faced him. "I am appalled and disappointed. That you should attempt such a cowardly and deceitful trick passes my understanding." He turned and walked into the bay window, turned and faced us again. "Well, I can tell you this. Before this evening is out you will be very sorry indeed that you ever did such a thing. Since you thought it would be clever to add some protection to your buttocks, let's see how you fare dressed rather differently. You will go now and get undressed. I want you back here in fifteen minutes wearing nothing except your gym shorts. Bare-footed, stripped to the waist. And I will be checking that you have nothing on under your shorts. Now, go."
We were a miserable bunch as we trooped off to get undressed. Henson tried to get us interested in comparing the stripes we'd already got, but no one had the heart for it. Well before the fifteen minutes was up we were back outside the old man's study, certain that we were going to get our backsides thrashed off us, and I for one felt like my heart was going to thump itself out of my chest and my guts were tying themselves up in knots.
I knocked on the door and he shouted, "Come in." I opened the door and we all filed in, as miserable-looking a bunch of boys as you ever saw. We shuffled into a line and stood there, our hands clamped over the fronts of our shorts, trying to look sorry for ourselves and repentant. Not that it did the slightest _f_u_c_k_ing good.
"I propose to punish you as severely as I have ever punished boys of your age. First, there is the beating that you cheated on. You will receive that again, but this time with only your shorts for protection, so that I dare say you will find it a good deal more painful. Then, as your punishment for putting swimming trunks on under your trousers, I shall give each of you six strokes of the cane on your naked backsides. And there will be a third element in your punishment that I will explain a little later.
"Let me explain why your punishment will be so severe. In the running of a school such as this everything depends on the co-operation of boys with the masters and prefects who are responsible for their safety and well-being. You will have noticed – or maybe you haven't – that in many matters you are trusted to do the right thing, to be responsible for yourselves and for your companions. For example, on Sunday afternoons you are expected to spend the time in a responsible and worthwhile way, without causing a nuisance to the people of the town or to each other. And, by and large, boys respond to this level of trust. More importantly, you are expected to be responsible for the work that you do in lessons and to develop your minds and spirits to the highest level you are capable of. When you become prefects you will have an even greater level of responsibility and you will have to play a part in forming the characters of the younger boys for whom you are responsible.
"Part of this responsibility that each boy owes to himself and to me is the acceptance of the conventions, the rules, if you like, by which the school runs. This means that you are expected to obey instructions implicitly, especially, as in this case, when they are issued for your own good. It also means that when you break those rules it is an absolute requirement that you accept the punishment in the spirit in which it is given. This means that when you deserve a beating you allow the master or prefect to administer the beating and acknowledge that you have deserved the punishment. So – you bend over when you are told to, you take down your gym shorts if Mr Donnelly tells you to, and you stay bending over till the beating is over no matter how much it is hurting. You are trusted to accept these just beatings in the spirit in which they are given.
"Imagine what school life would be like if every time you had to be whacked you had to be forced down over a table and held there while the beating was carried out. It would be intolerable for you and everyone else.
"One of the things which I have tried hard to inculcate into the boys of this school is a sense of honour. The kind of honour that takes responsibility for your own faults and even, if need be, the faults of others. The kind of honour that cares for those less strong or able than yourself. The kind of honour that tells the truth no matter what the consequences to the teller, but which is prepared to be silent when the truth might hurt another.
"I'm afraid, boys, that by behaving as you did you have shown that you don't yet have the kind of honour that I'm talking about. Your cowardice and deceitfulness are the very opposites of the characters that I believe you to really be in your hearts and that you will be when you leave this school.
"I will not tolerate cowardice. I will not tolerate deception. By your actions you have shown that you are not to be trusted. So – from today, until further notice, and, I might say, that is a long way off, every time you break a rule, no matter how trivial, you will either be caned or whacked with a gymshoe; and, since you have shown that you are not to be trusted to accept a beating as you should, every beating you receive, either from prefects or masters, will be applied to your naked backsides.
"Now, you will have heard of the Beast. Here it is, two chairs back to back. You will kneel on the nearer one, bend over the backs and rest on your folded arms the other side. That is how you are going to be caned. Davidson – you first, please."
Davidson knelt on the chair and stretched right over the backs. The old man was right. We had heard of the Beast and we knew that it was only used for the very worst kind of beatings. That made me even more scared, but what got to me even more was that we were going to watch each other getting the cane. Up to that moment I had always been whacked in private and assumed that it was a kind of rule that you were allowed a decent privacy to be punished.
Davidson was a skinny little chap and his shorts were pulled tight over the hard muscles of his backside. The old man picked up the cane and came round the desk and stood a good stride back from the two chairs. He kind of took aim with it and then launched himself into the first stroke. All of us flinched as it lashed into Davidson's arse. It landed just below the mid-point and the white cloth showed where it had landed. I thought he wasn't going to make a sound for a second but then he yelled the loudest I had ever heard a kid yell for the first stroke of a caning. In fact, I thought he was going to get up from his bending position. But we all knew, or thought we did, that he would start the beating again from the beginning if you didn't hold still for it, so he managed to keep himself in the right position. The old man really took his time, lingering it out and then lashing the cane into Davidson's bottom. It looked as though he was doing it as hard as he could and none of us were surprised that every stroke made Davidson howl.
After the fourth the old man just said, "Stand up," and Davidson hauled himself up off the chairs. His hands went straight to his backside, kind of clutching at the pain as though he wanted to rip it out. He limped back to where the rest of us were waiting and Grey had to go forward and take his place over the chairs. He bent right over and his shorts were stretched over the meat of his arse. He was a very different physical specimen from Davidson, a big, beefy boy who was a natural for the scrum at rugger. He was quite slim in the hips but his bottom was well padded with meat without being at all fat.
The old man lashed the cane into him and he howled with the sudden agony. After each of the next three I thought he was going to stand up. It was obvious that the pain was getting worse and worse. And of course all the time I knew that my own session over the Beast was rapidly approaching. When Grey got down from the chairs I think there were tears in his eyes, but he wasn't crying, of course, since only wetlegs blubbed for a caning, no matter how bad it was.
"Henson." The cane tapped on the backs of the chairs.
I felt numb all over as I stepped forward and climbed on to the chairs. I braced my knees apart slightly and then folded my arms and reached over the backs. I had to stretch to get my elbows down on to the opposite seat, but I knew that nothing less would do. In this position I could feel my shorts pulled tight across my bottom and, of course, I could still feel the four stripes from the first caning. It hadn't hurt much but it still stung a bit and now they were sort of throbbing inside my shorts.
The first stroke took me by surprise. It came so quickly after I was in position. It knocked all the breath out of me and it seemed as if someone else was yelling somewhere inside my head. The acid burn of that stroke was just indescribable. It seemed as though it had sliced right into the meat of my bottom and then exploded. Incredibly, the second was even worse. It felt as though the pain doubled. And then, doubled again as the third came lashing into my poor bottom, right down low where it hurt the worst. He made me wait for the last, though afterwards they told me that I'd nearly got up and he was waiting for me to get my elbows back on the chair. Jesus _f_u_c_k_ing Christ! I had never known that so much agony was possible.
Somehow I forced myself upright and climbed down off the chair. Always in the past when I had been caned I had been determined not to rub my arse till I was outside. I didn't want the person who had beaten me to know how much it was hurting. There was no chance of that now. I couldn't help myself but clutched at both buttocks with my hands, but without the slightest hope of rubbing out the pain. I felt as if explosions were still going off inside my shorts.
Ten minutes after I'd been caned and it still felt as though that _f_u_c_k_ing cane was still ripping into my flesh. I couldn't believe that it was hurting so much. I thought that I was wounded for life and that the agony was never going to go away. I kind of watched Henson getting caned through a haze of torment. Davidson and I both had our hands down inside the back of our shorts and I could feel the stripes coming up into great swollen bands across my skin. And all the time in the back of my mind was the thought that it wasn't even over yet.
Potter climbed up on the chairs and bent over. I felt sorry for him because I knew that he'd had only a fraction of the experience of getting the cane that the rest of us had. The old man lashed the first stroke into him and he almost screamed with the sudden lacerating fire of it. The four strokes were so slow and hard that it seemed as though they were never going to end. Twice I thought he was going to get up and then he'd have had to have the whole lot again from the beginning. I was relieved when he held out.
And then all four of us were standing there, rubbing at our bums like mad things and praying that he was going to let us off the rest. He wasn't, surely, going to cane us on our bare bottoms, was he?
"I hope that's beginning to get the message through to you," said the old man. We kind of nodded and mumbled. None of us was feeling strong enough to say anything coherent. "On to part two, then. Who wants to go first?"
We looked at each other. This was unprecedented. Always, beatings were done in alphabetical order. I suspect that the same thought flashed through all our minds, but I must have been the quickest.
"I will, sir," I muttered. All I wanted was to get the punishment over and get out of there. The pain was the worst I had ever felt in my life, and though the end was a long way off it was in sight. But I hadn't counted on his fiendish plan.
"Very well, Grey. Remove your shorts, please, and place them on that chair by the door. Then come and bend over the Beast again."
It was a big room and between the chair by the door and the two chairs where we had bent over must have been nearly twenty feet. I thought I was going to die of shame, just at the thought of walking all that way to the Beast without a stitch of clothing on, let alone actually doing it.
"Come along, Grey. There'll be extra strokes if I have to wait for you."
Somehow I forced myself into motion – over to the chair by the door. I kept my back turned on my mates as I eased my shorts down over my bottom, keeping the elastic clear of the still horribly burning weals. I stepped out of them, feeling my face exploding with the humiliation of the situation. It would have been so much easier if I could just leave them lying on the carpet, but no – they had to be picked up and placed on the chair. I turned and the two chairs I was going to bend over for the second time since we came into the room seemed to be about a mile and a half away. And standing beside them was the old man, flexing the cane into a semi-circle between his two fists.
I tried to focus on something else, anything else to take my mind off this horrific naked walk across the study carpet. I dared not look at my friends, but I guess their faces were a mixture of pity and terror that pretty soon they would be in my position, stark naked and stepping up to be caned again. I got there all too soon and had then to climb back on the chairs. I stretched over the backs and winced as the skin over my backside was pulled tight, reawakening some of the fire that had faded out of the fearsome stripes. I folded my arms and rested on them. This was the most hateful position I had ever been in, presenting my naked backside for a second dose of the cane on top of the appalling thrashing I had already had. I closed my eyes and tried to hold my breath.
Grey's backside was solid and round and all I could look at were the four horrendous purple and black stripes across the white of the skin. Each one was like a tramline with a white bit down the middle and you could see that each one was swollen up and that any stroke across them was going to draw blood.
We all flinched as the first stroke struck home. Grey howled and all of us could see instantly the fresh red weal across his backside, down low, lower than the first four weals and right across the most painful spot.
It wasn't till three more strokes had sliced into his bare arse that I realised what was happening. For the first four strokes the old man had stood back three or four steps and lashed the cane in as hard as he could. Now he was just standing over Grey and whipping it in with just the force of his arm and shoulder behind it.
It must have still hurt like _f_u_c_k_ because Grey was yelling for every one as it hit him, and I don't blame him, but still it was a bit less than what we'd had already. The last two struck home right down low where all of us knew a caning hurt worst. Grey didn't move and I could imagine why. Firstly, because we dare not move after a beating till we were told to get up, but secondly because when he stood up he would have to face us and, worse, walk across the room to where his shorts were. When I thought of having to do that naked walk across the room and then back again with my backside on fire I just hated the old man more than I'd ever hated anyone. I thought, you _f_u_c_k_ing bastard!
"Get up." Grey pushed himself up off his elbows and even before he climbed down off the chairs his hands had gone to his rear end and were clutching at the terrible set of stripes. He limped across to the chair where his shorts were. His face was twisted with the agony he was feeling and we could all tell how close he was to tears. I tried to look encouragingly at him and willed him not to cry, and I think all the others were doing the same. Anyway, he managed it and painfully pulled his shorts back on. I noticed how careful he was not to let the elastic scrape over the stripes, and then, of course, all I could think of was, lucky bastard, he's got his punishment over.
"Who's next?" We weren't so keen now and there was a bit of glancing in each other's direction. But I knew that getting it over quickly was the best thing to do, and I couldn't help admiring Grey for the prompt way he volunteered to go first.
"Me, sir," I said and stepped forward. I didn't wait for him to tell me to strip off. I wanted it over and done with. I crossed the carpet, pushing my shorts down over my backside as I went, whipped them down, stepped out of them and put them on the chair. Then, without looking at anyone, least of all the old man, I strode as fast as I could across to the Beast, climbed up on to it and bent over.
I'd been caned by the old man probably about a dozen times and I had never felt so downright _s_h_i_t_-scared as I did then. I could feel the four stripes across my bum burning like _f_u_c_k_, each one a separate line of fire. And before, every time, I'd had my trousers on and was just touching my toes, but now, when he lay the cool, smooth cane across my skin, right down low on my bottom, and I could feel it against my skin where it was going to come slicing into me I nearly _f_u_c_k_ing wet myself. The cane went away and I thought, this is it. Hold your breath. Don't clench your muscles. I heard it sing as it came lashing towards me and then –
Oh, _f_u_c_k_ing hell! Oh Jesus _f_u_c_k_ing Christ! Across my bottom was a line of burning acid, ten, twenty times worse than anything so far. I had no idea whether I yelled out loud or not, but, sure as _f_u_c_k_, I was screaming in my head. And then –
_f_u_c_k__f_u_c_k__f_u_c_k_, oh _f_u_c_k_! I hadn't heard anything that time, just felt the searing pain across my unprotected bottom. My head was full of screaming swearwords and I had time to think, I _f_u_c_k_ing hope this isn't coming out aloud. And then –
Oh _f_u_c_k_ ME! How can it hurt so much? It was like a red hot wire being pressed into my flesh and cutting deep into the meat. That's all I was now, a slab of _f_u_c_k_ing meat on a rack and he was butchering me. And then –
_f_u_c_k_ _f_u_c_k_ _f_u_c_k_ _f_u_c_k_ _f_u_c_k_ _f_u_c_k_ _f_u_c_k_!! He's killing me, mother. How can I _f_u_c_k_ing stand any more when it already hurts more than all the _f_u_c_k_ing pain in the world? This much pain is _f_u_c_k_ing impossible. Then –
Oh, mother, he's _f_u_c_k_ing me with this _f_u_c_k_ing cane. He's cut my bum in two and there's blood all over his _f_u_c_k_ing carpet. Tell him, mother, to stop _f_u_c_k_ing caning me. I could feel nothing but the pain that filled up the muscles of my backside and all the lower half of my –
Oh Jesus _f_u_c_k_ing Christ! And _f_u_c_k_ing mummy! You've let him _f_u_c_k_ing do this to me, mummy. How could you let him? I've been _f_u_c_k_ing butchered and I'm lying here bent over his _f_u_c_k_ing slab. The whole world was made of this burning pain and it felt as though it was never going to go away. My bottom would burn like this for ever.
"Get up." The old man's voice came from a mile away and I thought, don't be _f_u_c_k_ing stupid, how can I get up when I'm cut in two? "Get up, Davidson." It took a huge effort to push myself up off my elbows and straighten up. I reached back, though I'd told myself I wouldn't rub my bottom till I was out of the room. I expected to feel blood and wet meat across the bottom of my arse, but there was nothing like that. All I could feel was hot skin already swelling up into weals. I struggled down off the chair and hobbled across to where my shorts were waiting. I started to step into them and almost tripped over. I got control again and pulled them up, being extra _f_u_c_k_ing careful not to touch the weals.
It was over. I could breathe again. I put one hand up to my face before I turned round and was relieved to find that there weren't any tears. That would have _f_u_c_k_ing finished me off. Somehow I had found the strength to take it without letting myself down. Was it Jesus? Or the thought of my mother? Not likely. Jesus was just an empty picture we were made to pray to, and I hadn't seen my _f_u_c_k_ing mother since I was four years old.
I was still hobbling as I went across to where Grey was standing, still rubbing the seat of his shorts. He tried to grin at me and I tried to grin back but both of us were still too _f_u_c_k_ing sore to make a success of grinning. Now, I thought, let's see how you other cunts face up to the cane across your bare arses.
"Who's next?" said the old man.
I just couldn't do it. I felt sick to my stomach and I thought I was going to throw up. I could not bring myself to step forward and go and take my shorts off and then bend over the chairs so he could cane my bare bottom. It was impossible. Grey and Davidson had both taken the caning bravely, even if Grey had howled rather a lot. My backside was already burning so much that it felt as though it couldn't hurt any more. But then, what I had seen happen to the other two proved that it could hurt more. And it was going to.
On the other hand, I knew that I deserved it. I couldn't believe that I had been so stupid. I had deserved a caning and instead of taking it bravely I had behaved like a coward and now what I really needed was the worst caning in the world. Six of the best was the very least I deserved and, of course, I deserved to have it with nothing on. I didn't want to think about all the whackings I was going to get from prefects, but I deserved that too.
I knew I deserved it, but now that the moment had come, I couldn't step up, strip off my shorts and bend over, offering him my bare bottom so that he could give me the terrible caning that I deserved.
The old man was pointing at me and Henson with the cane, kind of waving it back and forth. "Which of you? No volunteers? All right. Henson, you. Shorts on the chair, please, and then come and bend over."
"Please, sir. Please don't cane me with nothing on, sir." Henson was pleading and I felt kind of embarrassed for him.
"Too late, Henson. You broke the rules and it's time for your backside to pay. Shorts off."
I think there were tears in his eyes as he stepped past me and went to the chair by the door. His hands were on the elastic of his shorts, but he didn't push them down yet.
"Please, sir. I can't bear it, sir."
"You should have thought of that earlier, Henson. There'll be more stripes if you don't bend over quickly."
He pushed his shorts down and stepped out of them and walked towards the chairs where he was going to be beaten.
"On the chair, Henson." He had to go back and pick his shorts up off the carpet. Now I was sure he was crying and didn't know whether to feel sorry for him or scornful that he was being so wet. Mostly sorry, I suppose, because it was going to be my turn next and I didn't think I could do any better.
He knelt on the chair and reached over, but he didn't go down on his elbows – just rested on his hands.
"Right down, Henson," said the old man. "You're trying my patience, boy. That'll be an extra stroke. And there'll be more if you delay any longer."
Henson folded his arms and bent over further, but he was still kind of twisting to one side and the old man made him lie straight by holding him by the hips and manhandling him into position. His bottom was small with firm muscles, and across the middle of both buttocks the cane had made thick swollen weals that were still a bit red but mostly purple and black.
"Now," said the old man. "You've got seven strokes to come, Henson. If you move, or get up before I tell you, you will receive more than that. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," Henson snivelled.
"Good." He lay the last foot of the cane across Henson's backside below the weals that were there already and Henson kind of whimpered as he felt it. The old man swung the cane back till it was poised behind his head, held it a moment and then whipped it in hard and fast across the poised bare bottom.
Henson screamed and reared up from his position. His hands clutched horribly at his rear end and his back arched away from the seat of the pain. And none of us could avoid seeing that he had pissed himself. The old man stood hands on hips, the look on his face turning to thunder.
"Henson! Bend over this minute." There was no mistaking the anger in his voice and Henson did bend over again, though he was shaking all over and it was obvious that he wasn't going to be able to take the caning. "That will be two extra strokes, Henson," said the old man through gritted teeth.
Immediately, Henson shot upright again, half-turning on the chairs, his face twisted with pain and despair. "Oh, please, sir. No more. I can't take any more."
But the old man was implacable. "Bend over, Henson, and try to take your medicine like a man. You have eight strokes to come – and you will get every one of them. Now – bend over!"
He did bend over the chairbacks, offering his bottom once more to the cane, but it was now more obvious than ever that he couldn't take it.
"Grey. Davidson. Come here, please," said the old man. The two boys stepped forward, puzzled. "Stand one each side of the chairs, please, and hold Henson's arms firmly. On no account are you to let him get up. Is that understood?"
They nodded and took up their positions. They held an arm each, forcing Henson's shoulders down so that he was bent even tighter over the chairs and his head was now down on the seat. The old man took up his position once more and took aim with the cane across Henson's trembling backside.
"Eight strokes, Henson. Try to take them bravely. Hold him firmly now, boys. If he gets up I shall blame you and you'll be getting the extra strokes. Ready?"
The cane whipped in, half an inch below the previous stroke , and Henson howled like a banshee. He writhed under his friends' hands but he couldn't move. The stripes built slowly across the white skin as stroke after stroke sliced into him. I stood there alone, appalled at what was happening. I didn't know which was worse, the terrible flogging that the old man was dishing out, or the spineless way that the boy who I had thought of as worthy of my friendship was taking his punishment. His cries were continuous now and he twisted and tried to escape from the lashing cane, but there was nowhere to go and every time the cane whipped in and caught him exactly across the line that the old man was aiming for. I felt sick to my stomach.
"Let him up."
It was over. Henson crawled off the chairs and kind of collapsed on the floor, whimpering and clutching feebly at his bottom. It was a horrible spectacle and did what nothing else could have done to steel my nerve. There was no way that I could allow myself to behave like this.
"Get up," said the old man scornfully. Henson staggered to his feet and hobbled over to retrieve his shorts. His face was red and blotchy and the tears were running freely down his cheeks. For that moment I felt ashamed to be in the same room as him.
"Potter." It was my turn. I walked as steadily as I could across the room, past the three already whipped boys, pushed my shorts down and stepped out of them. I placed them on the chair and walked back to where the Beast was waiting for me. I was hardly conscious at all of my nakedness, but then I had to climb on to the chair and bend over. My prick pressed against the polished wood of the chair back and then I was stretching over and leaning on my folded arms. I could feel the four terrible lines of fire across my bottom and the air was cool on the rest of my skin and I don't think I had ever felt so completely stripped and helpless in the whole of my life. And when he lay the cane across my skin to take aim that feeling of defencelessness and humiliation was total.
I don't want to write about the caning itself. It was the worst pain I had ever felt in my life and seemed to cut right into the centre of my body and my soul. It seemed to go on and on and on. And yet when he said, "Stand up," I hadn't realised that the six strokes were over.
I pulled my shorts back on with relief and stood there waiting to be released. But then the realisation began to dawn that we would be facing this over and over again in the coming weeks as prefects took advantage of their permission to beat our bare backsides any time they felt like it. That was when I almost cried and my spirit sank inside me. I didn't think I could stand up to it.