Hicks House


by Mr Hicks

Hicks House was the oldest in the school and unbelievably the housemaster was the great-great-grandson of the house's founder. It was an imposing four storey building with a range of balconies and grand gables rising high above the terraced garden that fell away to the main school building. Anyone coming in by the front door would have been impressed, if not overawed by the size and grandeur of the hallway and the massive oak staircase that rose round the four sides of the central well of the house. Doors led off the hallway to the various parts of the building: dining room, common rooms, and Colonel Hicks' study and sitting room.

On this particular day there was no mistaking which door led to the colonel's study as there were three boys standing outside it, facing the wall and with their hands on their heads. They were about thirteen years old and looked extremely sorry for themselves. There could be no mistaking what they thought was going to happen to them.

As you went up the staircase, there were pictures on all the walls and hung on the banisters, looking down into the hall, one or two stuffed animals. On each landing as you climbed up through the house, doors led off to the dormitories and somewhere the washrooms, matron's offices, servant's rooms, and so on. Right at the top was where the oldest boys in this junior house slept, a long, spartan room with fifteen iron-framed beds, each with a locker beside it and a hook on the wall for dressing gowns during the day and blazers at night.

Now, all the boys, except the three miscreants standing outside Colonel Hicks' study, were down in the school block, doing their prep. The only sounds came from beyond the door leading to the dining room and the kitchens, where the domestic staff were washing up after tea.

A door behind them suddenly opened and the boys flinched. The colonel crossed the hallway from his sitting room to his study door. He opened it brusquely, held it open and said, "In." The three boys dropped their hands and filed past him into the room the 'torture chamber' as boys sometimes referred to it.

The study was nearly as impressive as the hallway. Tall panelled walls enclosed a room nearly twenty feet square. The dark polished wood of the floor was partly covered with a large Turkish rug that stretched from the huge desk behind which the colonel now seated himself to the bureau by the door, the armchair over by the window and the bookcase on the farther wall. There were photographs of rows of boys on the wall as well as a large oar, two shotguns and the stuffed head of a rather small leopard.

The boys lined up facing the desk and stood with their hands clasped anxiously behind their backs and their heads hanging somewhat. The colonel leaned back in his chair and surveyed the three little crooks that he was going to have to punish. Devenish, Lawford and Murray. All three had visited the study before and had left with sore bottoms but there were very few boys in the house of whom that wasn't true. The colonel believed in the reformative power of a good whacking and kept a good choice of weapons in the bottom drawer of the bureau. It was very rare indeed for a week to pass without them being put to use and a visitor to the washrooms as boys showered after games would immediately notice the effects on their small white bottoms.

Devenish was a good-looking, dark-haired boy, a member of the house rugby and cricket teams and winner of the cross-country last month; a likeable boy, friends with most of his form and very well regarded by his form master. Colonel Hicks turned to his page in the punishment book. He'd been caned just after Christmas for bringing a snowball into the house and throwing it at someone in the common room four strokes, the colonel noted. (What had he been thinking of? Twice as many would have been more appropriate). Mr Stirling had slippered him for not showering after a run; probably on his bare bottom. He'd received a detention for going up to his dormitory in outdoor shoes, another for not cleaning the bath properly after he'd used it, a hundred lines for being noisy while lining up for the tuck shop and another hundred for running in the passage. One more entry before Easter and he'd be lining up for a dose of the cane. Nothing to give any warning of the present trouble he was in.

Lawford was shorter and sandy-haired. He wore glasses that he constantly tried to hitch up by wrinkling his nose. The glasses made him look rather bookish, even slightly feeble, but that was an illusion. He was fly half in the school Colts rugby team, played an excellent opening bat and bowled very passable leg breaks. He was also very good at fives, and had already started to play without a glove. His page in the punishment book was fuller than Devenish's, but there was still no sign of any viciousness. Three times since September he'd accumulated five entries in the book and been caned as a consequence: the last time with his trousers down. The colonel remembered his strongly muscled legs and neat little backside, and the way he'd taken six good ones without a sound. He'd been slippered for not showering at the same time as Devenish and again for going into town without permission. He was only one entry away from yet another caning.

Murray had dark hair and was slighter than his two friends. Not specially sporty, but he had done rather well in the cross country and had at least turned out for the house in the fives tournament. He was in the choir too, and sang a pretty creditable solo at the carol concert. His page was nearly empty. Only two detentions, one set of a hundred lines, a slippering for being out of his dormitory after lights out. (Probably going to the toilet, the colonel chuckled). And a caning, back before Christmas. It said 'Misbehaviour' in the Offence column so that could have been anything. Six strokes, though, so it wasn't trivial.

"Well, now," said Colonel Hicks. "perhaps you had better tell me your side of the story."

"Please, sir," began Lawford, who was obviously going to be the spokesman for all three of them. "We're very sorry for what we did, sir. We didn't mean to hurt him, sir. It was just a bit of fun."

"Fun!" the colonel exploded. The boys flinched. "You call it fun to tie up to a tree a boy a good deal smaller than you; to undress him and to beat him with sticks? You call that fun?"

"No, sir," said Devenish. He could feel tears pricking at the back of his eyes and dared not look at his friends.

"'No sir'," the colonel mimicked him. "Then explain to me, please, why you did it." The boys were silent, their heads hanging. "Stand up straight," the colonel ordered. "Face up to what you've done." They straightened, but still couldn't look him in the eye. "Well, I'm waiting."

"Please, sir." It was Lawford again. "He's the only boy in the form who hasn't had the cane, sir, and we were making fun of him for it, and then ...." His voice trailed away.

"You thought you'd give him a taste of what he's missing."

"Yes, sir."

The silence in the room stretched and seemed to get heavier and heavier as the colonel looked at each boy in turn as though he wanted to see right to the depths of his character.

"If you were me, Murray, and three boys came up to you for doing this, how would you punish them?"

"Me, sir?"

"Yes, sir. You."

"Give them the cane, sir," said Murray unhappily.

"Would you? What about you, Devenish?"

"Yes, sir. The cane, sir."

"And how many strokes of the cane would you give them, Devenish?"

"Six, sir?"

The colonel's eyebrows went up. "Six? You think that would be enough?"

"No, sir." Devenish's voice almost broke as he said it.

"So how many would you give? Eh?"

"Don't know, sir."

"How many times did you hit Coates with your stick, Devenish?"

The boy coughed and wiped his fingers across his mouth. "Six, sir," he whispered.

"And the others gave him six too, didn't they?"

"Yes, sir."

"So how many strokes of the cane would you give the boys you're punishing for doing that, Devenish?"

"Don't know, sir. Twelve, sir?"

"A round dozen of the cane. Does that sound about right to you, Lawford?"

"Yes, sir." His voice came out as no more than a croak.

"And how would you do it, Lawford? Across the seat of their trousers?"

"Yes, sir."

"Really?"

"No, sir. With their trousers down, sir."

"I see. And what was Coates wearing when you hit him, Lawford?"

"His shirt and pullover, sir."

"Don't palter with me, boy. You know perfectly well what I mean. What was he wearing on his lower half?"

"Nothing, sir."

"So how are you going to cane these boys who did what you did, if you were me, Lawford?"

"On the bare bottom, sir."

Again there was silence in the room.

"A dozen strokes of the cane on their naked backsides. Does that sound fair to you, Murray?"

"Yes, sir."

"Devenish?"

"Yes, sir." And the tears spilled down his cheeks.

"Lawford?"

"Yes, sir." And he too was crying. Silently, Murray started to weep also.

The colonel was motionless. The silence was a far more effective punishment than any words he could say. The boys tried desperately to bring themselves under control. They genuinely felt the most terrible remorse that any of them had ever felt. These were good boys, honest boys, and they knew what a terrible thing it was that they had done, and what a terrible punishment that they deserved.

"Very well," the colonel at last broke the silence. "This evening, after lights out, I shall call you down and you will be caned. By that time, I shall expect you to have apologised sincerely to Coates."

"Please, sir," Lawford interrupted. "We've done that already."

"I know you have. This time, you will do it separately and in public. I leave it to you how you do that. Do you have anything more to say?"

"Please, sir. I'm very sorry, sir."

"I know you are, Devenish. And yes " holding up his hand to stop the others, "I know all three of you are sorry. And no doubt you wish now that you hadn't done it. But you know that that cannot affect the punishment that you receive, can it?"

"No, sir," they muttered.

"Very well. Run along to prep. After supper, you're to go straight to bed."

The three boys turned sadly and headed for the door. It seemed about a mile away. Devenish turned as he reached the edge of the carpet.

"Please, sir."

"Yes, Devenish?"

"I don't think you should give Murray as much as us, sir. It was our idea and we had to kind of make him come with us, sir."

"Is that true, Lawford?"

"Yes, sir."

"Thank you. I will bear it in mind. Off you go."

The remainder of prep passed slowly but inexorably. They wanted it to be longer, to delay their punishment, but also wanted it to be over, so that supper could be over, so their punishment could be over. It was like falling from an enormous height, knowing the ground was rushing up towards them. Their friends knew and sympathised, but were helpless to do anything to lessen the agony of the wait.

Coates came up to them as they climbed up through the garden to their supper. "What's going to happen?" he asked anxiously.

He wasn't the conventional victim of bullying. They liked him and really had wished him no harm, even as they tied him up and whacked him.

"He's going to cane us," said Devenish.

"I'm sorry," said Coates. "I didn't want that to happen."

"Yes, we know," said Lawford. "You've got nothing to be sorry about. It was us who shouldn't have done what we did."

"That's all right. I didn't mind really. If that prefect hadn't come along I wouldn't have said anything about it."

"I know, but we are sorry anyway."

Supper dragged out its usual length. A hymn oddly it was 'Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven' and Murray had his usual weird vision when it came to the line 'Sun and moon bow down before him' of the sun and moon touching their toes and God with a cane behind them about to thrash the backsides off them. The usual sort of prayers and then watery cocoa and a couple of crumbly biscuits. And then the three boys had to drag themselves upstairs, all the way up to the top floor where their dormitory was. They changed into pyjamas, washed, cleaned their teeth, pissed and climbed into bed.

None of their friends had come up yet. They were the top dormitory, the last to be put to bed. Below them in the other dorms they could hear younger boys being chased and chivvied towards their lights out, but they knew that there would be the undercurrent of excitement that always ran through the house when a beating was in prospect.

"D'you think he'll really give us a dozen?" Murray asked.

"'Spect so," said Devenish. "If not, it's still going to be a monster."

Lawford felt his bottom gingerly with his fingertips. The skin felt warm and smooth and tender. It was hard to believe that very, very soon it was going to be burning and swollen. Would the old man tell them to let their trousers down before they bent over? Or would he tell them to bend over and then pull their trousers down? He wondered what it would be like to be caned on the bare bottom. It was bad enough if you were wearing trousers, and those times Mr Stirling had slippered him with nothing on it had hurt terribly. He could almost hear his heart beating and he felt slightly sick.

Devenish lay on his back with his hands behind his head. He felt like crying, because he felt so ashamed of what they had done. It had been cowardly and despicable. In theory, he wanted the old man to cane him and cane him and cane him till the crime was wiped out. In practice he was more frightened than he had ever been in his life. He had never in the past made a sound as he was beaten, and he wanted to take his punishment bravely. But he could still hear Coates's cries as he had hit him. Justice demanded that he cry like that, and he was very afraid.

The others came up to bed at last. Most of them ignored the three boys lying in bed already not because they wanted to hurt them, but because they were full of sympathy and didn't know how to express it.

Dixon and Hendry started an imitation of the old man calling them down and then in turn going "Whack, whack, whack."

"Oh, mummy, my botty hurts," squealed Dixon, rubbing himself and jumping up and down.

"_f_u_c_k_ off, Dixon," said Devenish, but he knew they didn't mean any harm and, actually, Dixon's imitation of the old man was very good.

At last the junior matron who was on duty had got everyone into bed and put the light out. She went out, leaving them in almost complete darkness, though the sky was still not utterly black outside. As always on these occasions, she left the door open, and they knew that up and down the staircase every dormitory door was open so that every boy in the house could hear what was going on. Lines of beds full of small boys were waiting for the fun to start, though it was dangerous fun because another time it could be them whose punishment everyone was waiting to enjoy. Murray remembered the fluttering in his stomach as he listened to some offender being caned, thinking that it would never be him down there. You had to be specially bad to be punished like this, and he was not a bad boy.

"Murray." The colonel's voice echoed up the stairwell, reaching into every dormitory. It was like a kick to his chest. He climbed out of bed and padded on bare feet between the two lines of beds. In the gloom boys lifted their heads off the pillow to watch him pass.

"Good luck," whispered Grey, and then several others wished him good luck. Though they knew full well that no amount of luck was going to save him now.

The dormitory was silent. The boys hardly dared breathe, listening for the first whack of the cane. The silence stretched and stretched. Surely he was down by now, down in the hallway where the colonel was waiting. Lawford and Devenish were in adjacent beds and they turned to look at each other, questions in their eyes. Surely it didn't take this long to walk down those flights of stairs. What was happening? He wasn't giving Mutters another lecture, was he? On and on the silence stretched. Where was he now? What was

CRACK! "Ow!" They all heard Murray's yelp of pain. Lawford almost yelped himself with the shock of it. Again there was silence, a long, long silence, then

CRACK! This time they didn't hear a sound from Murray but the sharp report of the cane reached the far end of the most distant dormitory. Every boy heard it, imagined it slicing into the boy's bottom. Devenish counted thirty full seconds

CRACK! Again no sound from Murray. Devenish lay on his back, listening. While I still can, he thought. Afterwards I'll have to lie on my belly. His right hand held his penis. He wished he hadn't done it. Not because he was going to be caned, but because he now hated himself for such a mean, contemp-

CRACK! Still Murray was taking it bravely. It was funny about pain, Devenish thought. When you had a fight with someone, or played rugby, sometimes it hurt, but you didn't mind it. He remembered taking a flying leap for the line, thwacking the ball down, and then his knee hitting the hard ground and another boy landing on top of him. That had hurt

CRACK! "Ow!" This time Murray did yell a little bit. But you didn't mind hurting like that. He remembered when he was small someone giving him a Chinese burn on his arm. That had hurt like anything, and the burn had lasted quite a long time. But it wasn't like being caned.

CRACK! "Aagh!" Six. It must be hurting a lot now. Devenish had never had more than six before. They always made the last one the worst of all. He remembered when Hendry got six in front of the whole form. Mr Scully stood right back by the blackboard for the last one and it made Hendry howl. Colonel Hicks made the last one cross all the others and that

KERRAKKK! "Aaagh!" That was a bad one. Murray yelled much louder and his cry seemed to echo up and down the stairs. Crossing the last one made all the others hurt worse as well and it left a pattern on your bum that was nice to show off in the shower and pretend that it hadn't hurt at all, but this way you couldn't pretend because every boy in the house had heard you yell as the cane

KERRAKKK! "Aaagh! Oh no!" That one was really bad. Was that eight? Eight! And the other two were going to get it worse. There was silence again. Every ear was straining to hear the next stroke. Devenish could feel his heart beating. It would be him next. Were there any more to come?

The silence up and down the house seemed to crackle with electricity. But no more cracks of the cane came. Murray's beating was over. Nothing but the buzz of silence. In other dormitories boys whispered to each other eight! But up on the top floor there was nothing but silence, stretching on and on. All eyes strained at the black space of the door.

"Devenish!" The colonel's voice lashed up and into the dorm. Devenish climbed quickly out of bed and headed for the door. "Pyjamas off!" It stopped him in his tracks. Pyjamas off! There was a gasp from round the dorm. Devenish was going to be caned naked! The horror of it washed over him. He had to go downstairs as naked as going into the shower, and then bend over and allow the colonel to cane him with not even a shred of protection.

He unbuttoned his jacket, shrugged it off and threw it on his bed. Then, pulled the cord of his trousers, let them drop, stepped out of them and threw them on the bed too. Every boy watched except Lawford watched as he walked to the door. Some were sitting up in bed.

Devenish stepped out into the blackness of the landing, where the only light came up from far below in the hallway. It was cold without clothes on. He risked a peep over the banisters. Three floors below, the colonel was there waiting for him and it looked like Mr Stirling too. He set off down the stairs, subconsciously avoiding the bits of stair that creaked. Although no-one could see him, he was extra sensitive to the dozens of pairs of ears in each of the dormitories that he passed. The doors were open and he was aware that maybe one or two boys inside could see him pass, but he could see nothing.

And here came Murray, padding silently up the stairs, his hands clutching at his bottom. Devenish stopped and his friend reached him. "All right?" Devenish whispered. The age old question to any caned schoolboy.

"Yes," Murray whispered back. "Not too bad. Good luck." And he limped past, longing to be back in bed.

Along the second floor landing padded the naked boy, and then down again, round three sides of the stairwell again and then the first floor landing. It was still dark here apart from the light coming up from the hallway. He looked over the banister again and the colonel was looking up at him, and there, in his hand, was the cane that was going to lash his bottom. Down the last three flights and there he was, in the suddenly harsh electric light, confronting the two men who were going to punish him.

He stepped off the bottom step and stood facing them, trying to be brave. He covered his genitals with his hands, and there, with another shock to his racing heart, was the chair he was going to have to bend over.

"Do you have anything to say, Devenish?" asked the colonel.

"No, sir."

"Good. Go to the chair, please. Mr Stirling will get you ready."

He stepped forward to the heavy chair with the padded seat that always stood outside the colonel's study. The chairback reached to just above his groin. He bent forward over the back and Mr Stirling guided him into a tighter position and made him hold the bars below the seat, pulling hard on them to make his bottom as taut as possible.

"Ready, sir," said Mr Stirling. The boy felt utterly helpless, opened up to this man who was going to hurt him as much as he could. If it was twelve, how could he stay there like this, allowing him to do it? But he knew that if he moved Mr Stirling would hold him down till the beating was finished. There was nothing he could do.

He felt the tip of the cane touch him on the middle of his right buttock. Then it went away. All his awareness was concentrated in his bottom, the cool smoothness of the air over his skin. He heard the man's boots on the tiled floor. Heard the high-pitched swish of the cane through the air and CRACK! Impossibly loud it connected with his exposed flesh and then oh my God! the pain flooded into the muscles. "One," he heard Mr Stirling say. This much pain seemed impossible. It burned and throbbed across both buttocks and the wait for the second stroke seemed interminable.

The second stroke seemed, impossibly, to double the pain. "Two," came the counting voice. And then the long, long, long wait with the two lines of fire burning deep into his flesh. The third doubled it again and he might have cried out. Nothing existed for him outside the incredible lines of pain across his bottom. "Three." The master's voice came from somewhere miles away. He couldn't just stay there and take this. No-one could. The next stroke would tip him over the edge and he'd have to stand up. CRACK! The cane sliced down for the fourth time, seeming to cut deep into the meat of his bottom just above the tops of his thighs. "Four," said Mr Stirling, and the pain now was like a burning strap across the whole of the lower half of his backside.

And then, bizarrely, he thought of all his friends, up on the top floor, listening to the cracks of the cane across his flesh. He thought of them trying to imagine what he was going through. But how could anyone imagine pain like this, even someone like Sutcliffe who had been caned over and over again? The fifth stroke lashed into him, slightly higher, revisiting flesh already wealed by the cane. Someone yelled but he wasn't aware of his own throat making the noise. "Five," said Mr Stirling calmly. Everything seemed to be concentrated into the lines of fire printed across his bottom and nothing outside of them registered anywhere in his brain. Again the long, long wait, but now he was used to the rhythm of it and he was ready, his breath held, when the sixth lashing stroke bit deep into the meat of his bottom. "Six," said Mr Stirling.

It seemed as though the pain was leaking down his legs, filling the whole of his lower body with fire. This was way beyond the amount of pain he was able to stand. No-one could just stand there, bent over a chair and accept this level of utter agony.

But he did. His hands held on to the rails of the chair, and pulled on them as though his life depended on it, pulling him into the tight bending position that the punishment required. Held it even though it felt as though his bottom was exploding and filling his whole being with acid fire.

His brain gave a little flicker of life, of reason. He'd taken six. The agony in his backside was the worst thing he had ever felt in his life. It couldn't get any worse. The rest of the beating however much it was going to be would be easier. And this he kept telling himself is what you deserve.

He heard the old man's boots on the tiles, heard the high-pitched THWUP of the cane, realised, too late, in the final micro-second, that the sound was different. And it came ripping into him. And he couldn't help himself. The cry was wrenched out of him. And echoed up the stairwell. And into every dormitory. Where every boy heard his howl of pain.

"Seven," said Mr Stirling.

This was a new world of burning. He couldn't get up now, even if he wanted to. He did want of course he wanted to get up but his discipline held. And he was aware of the master's knees on either side of his head and his hands resting on his torso, ready to hold him firmly. Even if the discipline failed he was going to take every stroke of this caning.

It became a blur of crude torture. Across his bottom the lines of fire had become globes, worlds of exploding acid that had fastened themselves to his flesh. As a boy he had ceased to exist. He was nothing but two lumps of suffering meat and a mouth to howl out the suffering as the cane whipped into him over and over again. He didn't hear Mr Stirling steadily counting the strokes of the cane; he no longer heard the colonel's boots clicking on the tiles of the floor. Nothing existed but the CRACK! of the cane across his buttocks and the pain that filled him up, that told him what he was.

"Twelve," said Mr Stirling, and he thought, Please, no more. Please don't hit me any more. He was there, still bending tightly over the chair, the master still held him lightly in place, and the roaring mass of pain still exploded through the meat of his body.

"When Colonel Hicks tells you to get up," Mr Stirling was saying, and his voice seemed to come from several feet above his head, "you will get up, shake his hand and thank him for the beating you have received. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," he heard himself say, and Mr Stirling moved away from him, leaving him there alone over the chair.

"Very well, Devenish. You may get up."

He had to let go of the bars under the chair and then force himself upright. It was very hard to do. But he had not been utterly destroyed by the pain. It still mattered to him that he did it according to the code. He would not rub at his bottom till he was out of sight, and he would try not to show the old man how much the cane had hurt. He turned. The colonel was over by the door to his study. He limped across to him and held his hand out.

"Thank you for beating me, sir," he managed to say. "I won't do anything like that again."

"I sincerely hope not, Devenish," said the colonel and took the boy's hand, noting that the pressure was returned openly and firmly. Then he was surprised when the boy stepped almost briskly back across the hallway and offered his hand to Mr Stirling as well. The master took it.

"Thank you, sir. I'm sorry," said the boy.

"Thank you, Devenish," said the colonel. "You're a brave little chap. Now. Back to bed with you."

The boy turned stiffly and limped towards the stairs. The two masters watched him go. He was a tall, well-built boy. His shoulders were broadening and his torso tapered to his narrow waist. His lithe young bottom was slim and tightly muscled, and now every inch of flesh from about the mid-point of each buttock to the tops of his thighs was striped across by the cane in every colour from red to black. He stopped at the bottom of the stairs, as though having to make up his mind to climb them, but then he set off, back to bed.

A very satisfactory beating, the colonel thought. He won't rub that off in a hurry, and every time he sits down for the next few days he'll be reminded of it. The colonel had also noted, as the boy came towards him to shake hands, the slight stiffening in the boy's penis. That and the absence of any tears once it was over showed how well he had taken his punishment.

Devenish had reached the first floor landing. The men noted with approval that as he turned out of sight his hands went to his backside. This was a very thoroughly whipped young boy.

The colonel looked up into the distant roof of the stairwell, placed a hand beside his mouth, and shouted, "Lawford." His voice came back to him, echoing off the skylight. "Pyjamas off."

There was silence. Somewhere above them one soundly caned boy limped naked back to bed, while another naked boy started his long walk down the stairs to where his punishment waited. Somewhere on the stairs the two boys passed each other in the semi-darkness. If they said anything to each other the two men down in the hall didn't hear it. The two men didn't speak. The routine was well known and there was nothing to be said.

At last Lawford emerged on to the last flight of stairs. He wasn't as tall as Devenish, but just as strongly made. His body was neat and muscular and the colonel noted the emerging depth of his chest, the flatness of his belly and the sinewy strength of his legs. He had put on his glasses and just as he stepped off the bottom stair on to the tiles of the hallway he wrinkled his nose to hitch them up a bit. His hair was short and seemed to stand straight up from his skull.

"Do you wish to say anything before I cane you, Lawford?"

"No, sir. I'm sorry, that's all."

"Good boy. Go to the chair. Mr Stirling will get you ready."

He watched as the boy walked forward to the chair and bent over it as the master directed him. He had to reach up on his toes slightly to get his head low enough on to the seat, but then he was gripping the rails firmly and his bottom was ideally presented for the cane. The colonel noted the clear muscle tone of his buttocks, the absence of extraneous fat, the faint turquoise lines left by an old caning. He stepped forward, offering up the last foot of the cane to the boy's bottom, no bigger than a pair of good-sized grapefruit, touching the tip against the right buttock.

The first six strokes were applied slowly and very hard. He took a skipping stride into each stroke, swinging the cane back as he did so and lashing it in almost horizontally so that it sliced into the boy low down on his bottom. Each time, a vicious crimson stripe appeared almost instantaneously across both cheeks, the blood rushing into the wounded place, starting to swell into a raised weal. With a thirty second wait between each stroke, so that the boy had time to fully appreciate each one, the first weals had started to discolour into vivid bruise, purple and black, before the beating was finished. The first six strokes were parallel, close together, covering the lower half of the boy's bottom.

The boy made no sound as the first six strokes were administered, but there was no doubt at all that they were hurting him terribly. Each time, his head came up in a spasm of pain and his hands gripped the rails of the chair convulsively. After numbers four, five and six his right foot came off the floor, kicking wildly for a few seconds before he resumed the position, ready for the next stroke.

And then the colonel changed the cane. The new one was a little longer, no thicker and glossy black instead of the bone white one he had used up to now. He stepped back an extra stride, slightly further to the left, took mental aim and skipped in, lashing it in hard and low.

And now the boy did cry out. The cane landed at an angle to the earlier strokes, crossing them, reawakening the agony that was in them. At first a strangled moan in the back of his throat, rising to a howl that echoed up the stairwell before the full dozen had been delivered. His feet danced on the tiles, but still the boy held his position over the chairback, offering his now lacerated bottom to the cane.

The colonel didn't use this black cane often, but it never failed to reduce even the toughest young man to a wailing little boy. Horribly flexible and baked hard and oiled to its black shine, it never failed to produce a most therapeutic agony. There were smudges of blood on the boy's right buttock: he would remember this caning for a very long time.

"When you're told to stand up, you will shake hands with Colonel Hicks and thank him for beating you," Mr Stirling said. "Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," said the boy in a voice that contained all the pain of his caning.

His bottom was a mass of purple black and crimson weals, each one with the characteristic white line down its centre. Despite the punishment being over he still held himself tightly over the chair, his toes pushing him up into the right position.

"You may get up, Lawford," said the colonel.

Slowly the boy straightened up. His hands went briefly to his wounded bottom, then one hand pushed his glasses up on to his nose. He limped across the hallway, offering his hand, not yet conscious of his swollen penis.

"I'm sorry, sir. Thank you for giving me the caning I deserved."

The boy and the man shook hands. "Very well, Lawford. You may return to bed." The naked boy turned for the stairs but then turned back and crossed the hall to shake hands with the other master. The two men exchanged glances. The boys couldn't have arranged this, yet both of them had displayed this additional sense of honour. Then Lawford was on the stairs, starting the long climb back to his dormitory.

It was a long way, and almost completely dark now. Every step was a renewed agony in his bottom. The globes of appalling that had fastened themselves to his flesh made walking difficult and he had to force his feet to climb each step. On the landings he was only vaguely aware of the lines of boys, straining to hear him pass. But his bare feet made no sound on the wooden floor. He stopped on the second floor and looked down over the banisters. The chair where he had been beaten was back outside the old man's study, but the two men were still there, talking.

At last he reached his own dormitory and went into the total darkness of the room. He could feel his friends watching him.

"You all right, Lawford?" came Hendry's voice out of the darkness.

"Yes. Not too bad." The conventional question and reply, no matter how bad the beating had been.

He found his own bed, more by feel than anything, pulled back the bedclothes and climbed in without putting his pyjamas back on, wincing as his bottom landed on the hard mattress. He lay down and turned on to his stomach, leaving the sheet and blankets off so that the air could cool his fiery backside.

Downstairs, the colonel started his round of the dormitories. Silently he climbed the stairs. He didn't expect to find any talkers, but he carried his cane with him just in case. At the first open door he stuck his head inside and said quietly, "Good night, boys."

"Good night, sir," came the muffled reply. He closed the door and on he passed. At each dormitory it was the same.

"Good night, boys."

"Good night, sir."

On the second floor, he heard a whispered conversation as he approached one door.

"Someone's talking in here," he said. "I still have the cane with me." And he whipped it sharply through the air to let them hear it. The silence was like a chocolate cake. "Good night, boys," he said at last.

"Good night, sir." Oh, the blessed relief as he closed the door.

Up on the top floor there was only one dormitory. He paused outside for a moment. Not even the sound of breathing, though he could imagine the three whipped boys suffering in silence.

"Everyone back in bed?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," came the voices of Devenish and Lawford.

"Murray?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good night, boys."

"Good night, sir," and he closed the door.

Half an hour later, nearly all the boys were asleep. Downstairs, in the little chaps' dorm, one or two were still awake, unable to get out of their heads the cries of pain as the old boys had been caned. They couldn't escape the thought that sooner or later it might be them.

Upstairs, Lawford and Devenish were still awake. Murray had dozed once, but then turning on to his back had woken him up. Devenish lay on his back, reducing the pressure on the still burning part of his bottom by raising his knees. His penis was stiff as a flagpole now and he allowed his hand to stroke gently over the head of it.

Lawford lay on his side with one knee drawn up. With his fingertips he gingerly explored the lattice of burning weals across his bottom. Each one was swollen into a throbbing rope with twin halves on each buttock. He found the scabs where the cane had broken his skin and winced at the special tenderness there. It felt as though it would go on hurting for ever and he would have these swollen weals across his backside till the day he died.


More stories by Mr Hicks