Twelve corkers across my bare backside. I still can't believe that he gave me that severe a beating. I'd never been up to him before – for anything. Not even those times when he's purged the form and caned about three-quarters of us – never me.
I mean, I've had my share of whacking. You couldn't get through this school without ever having your bum whacked. But it's nearly all been just a few slaps of some prefect's gymshoe. Until this year I'd only once had a full six from a prefect, and that was from Scudder last year when four of us went up to the old quarry on our Sunday walk.
And I've had the bat from Madman. But then everyone's had the bat from Madman. And the only times I've had it were when he made the whole form strip off and bend over in a line down the middle of the gym. In other words, about twice a term. And those times hardly ever get into the punishment book, anyway. But until this term it's never been just me getting it, not even on my birthday when some lads get their kit swiped so that they'll get the bat.
And I can tell you exactly how many times I've had the cane before this year. Once. In the first year 'Franky' Frankleigh was our form master, and as well as caning the boy who comes bottom in the form order he canes the boy who drops the biggest number of places. And in the second order I dropped from fourth place to tenth. I was terrified because after the first order came out Pavey got four good ones with all the rest of us watching. When the second order came out he was bottom again and this time he had to let down his trousers and have it with just his pants for protection. Then he called me out and, because I'd dropped six places, he gave me six strokes, with the whole form watching and calling out the numbers of the whacks. I was more embarrassed than hurt, but I made _d_a_m_n_ sure that I never dropped so many places again.
But then, last May, everything changed. The old man called me in to his study and of course I thought I must have done something wrong and was going to get the cane. But no. He just said, "I've some bad news for you, Devlin. Your father was killed in an aeroplane crash last week. I've told matron. If you need a chat about it, go and see her." And that was it. I didn't know whether to cry or not. How to react at all. I certainly wasn't going to go and chat to matron, the ghastly old bat. Mother never came to see me, never telephoned. She sent me a letter just telling me that the funeral had already happened and that I wasn't to worry. When I went home for the summer holidays, she wasn't there. In the South of France, according to the housekeeper, so I spent the ten weeks holiday more or less doing as I pleased. I would have gone to see father's grave, if I'd known where it was: it certainly wasn't in the village churchyard.
From then on – and I'm not claiming that it was as a result of father dying, mind you – I never seemed to be out of trouble. First night back there was a certain amount of ragging – you know, de-bagging the new _s_h_i_t_s and so on – and a group of us were caught by Roper: six really hard ones with a gymshoe. And that was how the term started off.
And it kind of went on from there. Twelve whackings altogether. One caning from 'Quackers' Duckworth for not doing prep; another dose of the stick from Scudder, who's the head prefect now and has a cane to use on useless _s_h_i_t_s like me; two (!) doses of the bat from Madman. The worst one was when he heard me swearing at Jacobs in the lesson. He got Harrison-Green to hold me over his back and then ripped off my shorts and gave my naked bum six absolute _f_u_c_k_ing corkers. The rest were just whackings with gymshoes from prefects. There's always a good deal of discussion about which prefect whacks the hardest. This year there's no contest: it's Priest by a mile. And he's whacked me three times this term. Once it was six in just my pyjamas – and he gave me two extra because I stood up in the middle.
And now, here I am on the station, waiting for my train to take me home for Christmas, with my bottom on fire. The others have gone off on other trains already. There were three of us third formers who'd been up to the commander and we went into the Gents on the platform with a group of our mates a while back to examine each other's wounds. Compared to Pavey I got off quite lightly; Anderton was about the same as me. Hathersedge from the fourth form was there too and the cane had made his backside bleed. I don't suppose my mother will be at home for Christmas; it'll just be me and the housekeeper again. But I wouldn't tell her about my beating even if she was there.
Next term, who knows? Of course I promised the old man that I was a reformed character and that I'd never get sent up to him again. It would be nice, but I can't see it happening. I bet I'm up to him again at the end of next term.