The Reverend Mould stared at Amanda and nodded his head.I can't wait for tomorrow! It should be very interesting.
"In the context of administering corporal punishment, and teaching you the responsibilities and techniques that go with it, yes. During the course, each one of you will both give and receive corporal punishment. The whole point of the exercise is to show you that discipline is essential, but it must be placed in a context which is itself disciplined and controlled."
Stephen's mind raced. He really had no choice but to go along with all this if he wanted to keep his promotion prospects alive. Superintendent Matthews would crucify him if Stephen gave him an excuse for a bad report on his annual review. In any case, he supposed, the Reverend surely could not get too serious, not with three girls on the course. He grinned to himself. It did offer some interesting possibilities. Every cloud was supposed to have a silver lining.
"Kim will now distribute the forms I need you to sign, before we go any further."
As the slips of paper were passed around the table, Stephen observed the faces of the others in the room. The Reverend Mould was quite impassive; it was impossible to tell what he was thinking. Vicky Plum wasted no time in thought and simply dashed off a scrawly signature at the foot of the page she was offered. Evidently she had no worries. Ruth Jamieson looked a little more troubled, but after a pause also signed her form. Amanda Price seemed to hesitate and Stephen thought she was on the point of walking out. While he watched the slim girl deliberate, Kim silently appeared beside him and placed Stephen's own form on the table in front of him.
The single sheet of paper was headed with the name 'Damocles Priory' and simply stated that the signatory was there in the full knowledge that their attendance might place them at risk of discomfort and indignity, of a temporary nature, and that this was accepted by the signatory. Furthermore, the signatory agreed to keep confidential all the activities which took place on the course they were attending. As Amanda Price sighed deeply, then signed her form, Stephen picked up the pen he was offered and did the same.
"Excellent." The Reverend Mould seemed quite pleased. "Now we will begin the course properly. I do emphasise that, from this point on, I consider you all to be subject to a disciplined regime. You should all act accordingly. Now, if you would all come with me, I have a little tour of some of the more interesting assets of the Priory to show you." He stood up and made for the door through which Stephen had first entered the room.
The three girls followed, with Stephen bringing up the rear, and the little procession made its way into what Stephen immediately realised was the long wing of the building, which he had previously observed from the outside. They found themselves in a large hall, which might once have been a chapel. The high ceiling was supported by some elegant timber arches, and the light was provided by a series of chandeliers hung by massive chains from the roof timbers. All the windows were very tall and thin, divided by heavy stone columns. Stephen noted that the lowest part of the glazing came well above his eye-line. Evidently these windows had been designed to only receive light, not for the purpose of looking into or out of.
Whatever purpose this hall might once have served, Stephen was sure that it was very different from the use it had now. The far end of the room was set out like an old-fashioned schoolroom. In the centre of this area stood a sturdy oak table, in front of which a number of straight-backed chairs had been arranged in a neat square. Behind the large table stood an antiquated blackboard and easel.
It was towards this area that the Reverend Mould was leading his little party. But, in order to get there, they had to pass down a central aisle between the most astonishing set of exhibits Stephen had ever seen. The place was clearly a museum, but dedicated to one subject alone. To Stephen's right, an astonishingly life-like waxwork schoolboy was bent over a tall stool, about to receive a caning from the equally life-like schoolmaster who stood beside him. To his left, a burly convict was spread-eagled, tied to a stout timber triangle, naked to the waist, his back already bleeding from the stripes of a cat o' nine tails. Behind these life-like tableaux, partially hidden in the shadows at the sides of the hall, stood several pieces of apparatus; some of them recognisable to Stephen; some of them with uses he could only guess at. He identified a stout wooden pillory; two sturdy uprights linked by a timber crossbar with holes cut for the victim's neck and wrists. Alongside the pillory there was an elaborate bench consisting of two low planks with a raised, padded section in the centre. It was beautifully crafted in dark-coloured wood and deeply polished. Stephen judged from its appearance that it was probably a valuable antique. On the walls of the room, below the windows, hung a series of glass-fronted display cases, each containing implements of punishment; canes, tawses, whips in all shapes and sizes. It was a menacing display which made his hair curl.
Stephen heard one of the girls draw in her breath as she looked at the waxwork schoolboy and, as they moved further down the aisle, there were several gasps of surprise. They passed various items of furniture obviously intended to support victims under punishment. There were trestles, benches and stools of all kinds, mostly with leather restraint straps fixed to strategic points. Vicky seemed particularly interested in the third and last waxwork tableau. A lady in Victorian dress sat on a wooden chair not unlike those arranged at the end of the room. A teenage girl in similar costume was draped across her knee. The girl's skirts were bundled up above her waist to reveal a pair of voluminous bloomers which the older woman was attacking with the back of a wooden hairbrush. The girl's legs were raised, kicking out behind her. Behind the chair stood a stern-looking man in frock coat and top hat - the girl's father perhaps? He held a riding crop in one hand while his other hand rested on the chair back. The clear implication was that the hairbrush punishment in progress was merely a preliminary to a far more severe chastisement.
After allowing his charges a few moments to digest the scene, the Reverend Mould gestured to the chairs and tables at the end of the room. "Won't you all please sit down." Stephen picked up a chair and passed it to Ruth before taking one himself. In a matter of moments the four students were arranged in a semi-circle in front of the Reverend.
"I do hope that you do not find my little museum too disturbing," the Reverend said. Could he really be a vicar? Stephen wondered. Whatever denomination he might profess, he was clearly as mad as a hatter. Unfortunately, however, it was too late to back out now. "As you see, I have focused on the main subject of our course." Mould continued. He indicated the end of the room where they sat. "This area will be our classroom. It will be convenient when we need to refer to any of the exhibits or use pieces of the apparatus for the purposes of demonstration."
There was a distinct rustle as each of the four students shuffled uncomfortably on the hard chairs. Stephen assumed that the three girls were conjuring up the same kind of disturbing images that he was.
"The course will take the following form. After we break up this evening, you are free to examine the museum, although I suggest that an early night might be a good idea. We will reconvene here after breakfast - at nine o' clock sharp. There will be a mid-morning break and a lunch break. We will resume for one session in the afternoon finishing at three. The rest of the day will be devoted to private study in your own rooms, during which time you will each produce an essay summarising what you have learnt from the course. These essays will be reviewed the following morning before you all depart for your respective homes. As an incentive, there will be a small trophy for the writer of the best essay and also a small token to mark the least satisfactory work submitted. Any questions?"
There were none and Stephen began to relax a little. At least this crazy vicar seemed to have an organised agenda which bore some relation to the subject in hand.
"Good. Now, by way of introduction, I will say a few words about corporal punishment in our modern context. Of course, you realise that the days when an offender could be flogged senseless, like that poor chap, are long gone." He pointed at the effigy of the convict strapped to the triangle. "Now we recognise that the purpose of corporal punishment, or CP as we have come to refer to it, is to give a short, sharp shock, if you will forgive the cliche. As such, the primary objective is a psychological one. We wish to have at least as much impact on the offender's mind as on the body. To achieve this, we do not need to cause lasting physical damage, provided we administer the punishment correctly. In fact, in most cases, the actual physical effects need only be quite mild; merely a key to unlock the mind of the recipient. Once the required stimulus is generated, the real punishment is all in the mind."
His beady eyes flickered over his audience to make sure that they were attentive. Amanda Price was sitting nearest to him on his right, Ruth Jamieson to his left. Vicky Plum sat next to Amanda with Stephen on the far left. Stephen watched as the vicar selected his prey, like a hawk hovering over an unsuspecting field-mouse.
"Miss Price, have you any ideas on how we might achieve this psychological effect?"
Amanda looked startled at being chosen, but recovered quickly. "I suppose that the way in which the punishment is given is important," she began, " I mean, there has to be a certain ritual. It has to be controlled, measured, to be a punishment; otherwise its just a spontaneous beating given out of temper."
"Very good, Miss Price. Mr. Langton, have you anything to add?"
Stephen had been thinking as hard as he could since the question was first asked, and was able to give a prompt reply.
"Anticipation. It is important that the victim knows in advance what is going to happen. That way he, or she, can anticipate the punishment and that will increase the effect."
"Very good. Miss Plum?"
"Well I suppose if you make the offender ashamed at the time of the punishment, I mean they will remember it more later. The shame, I mean."
"Yes, and how might we do that, do you think, Miss Jamieson?"
Ruth coloured up and Stephen sensed that discussing the subject so openly somehow embarrassed her more than it did the others. "I suppose it would have to be the way in which CP is given," she said. "If the victim loses dignity, say by being punished in front of their friends or classmates, that would do it. But, of course," she added quickly, "you would have to ensure that you didn't bring about the opposite effect and create a martyr. You would have to embarrass the victim to show that they weren't a hero."
"That is really most perceptive of you all. I really am most impressed."
As he spoke the Reverend Mould opened a drawer at the back of the large table. He rummaged inside, continuing as he did so, "Now, it is time for a little introduction to the Active Learning technique which I mentioned earlier." He found what he was searching for and extracted from the drawer a short leather strap. He slapped it down on to the table with a sharp crack.
"Although you have only been at Damocles Priory for a short time, you have each managed to find two opportunities to disobey clear instructions. I now propose to deliver token punishments to each of you."
He was still rummaging in the drawer and now produced a length of dark-yellow cane, about two feet long, which was also slapped down on the table next to the strap.
"These punishments will serve a duel purpose. They will introduce you to the concept that this is a disciplined learning experience." The word 'discipline' carried a particularly sharp emphasis. "Furthermore, since you can all be assured that this evening's experience will be a mild one compared to what I have planned for tomorrow, you may experience something of that anticipation which Mr. Langton so astutely commented on a few moments ago."
Stephen opened his mouth to protest, but thought better of it.
"During dinner, I particularly asked for a full and frank exchange of information, because I felt that it would help you all to understand each other's background. Not one of you complied with my wishes: you all held back. So I will say to you all collectively, each one of you is here to learn, but the need to learn has been assessed by your respective employers because you have each, in some way, broken the rules in your own particular working environment. You were all given a code number before being sent here. Mr. Langton?"
"Yes, I was code eight."
"Code six - but I don't know what it means."
"It will become clear as we move on. Miss Plum?"
"And last, but not least, Miss Jamieson?"
"Oh very definitely not least! I will explain. The number you have been given expresses the level of disappointment felt by your employers, relating to recent in post performance."
Stephen was watching Ruth closely and saw her wince as the truth was revealed. She was clearly unhappy that the rest of the group should find out that she had, in some way, upset her bosses. Very clever, he thought. Mould was obviously doing exactly what he had just been lecturing about; making his victims embarrassed, lose their dignity, as well anticipate what was to come.
"So you see," Mould continued, "each of you could have been rather more open during the conversation we had to introduce ourselves. For that lack of candour and clear breach of my instruction, I think three strokes with the light cane will suffice. Miss Price, will you come first please and stand here beside me?"
There was a deathly hush. Would she do it? Stephen wondered. The man was clearly mad, the situation bizarre. Amanda's chair scraped on the floor as she slowly rose and took the few steps needed to reach the indicated spot.
"Hold out your right hand."
White as a sheet, Amanda extended her right arm at full stretch and looked away. The cane swished down and impacted with the girl's upturned palm with a sharp crack. Stephen saw Amanda's face screw up with pain, but she did not move. Again the cane swished down, and this time the tall girl flinched and withdrew her hand with a small cry, nestling it under her left armpit.
"One more to come, Miss Price. Put out your hand, please." His voice was neutral. He might have been directing her to the railway station for all the passion it contained. Amanda put out her arm again and Stephen could see that she was blinking back tears. Mould grasped the girl's wrist, holding her steady, as he swiftly brought the cane down again. Amanda made no sound, but her mouth was held so tightly shut that her lips had turned white.
"You next, Miss Plum."
As Vicky Plum made her way to the front of the room, she passed Amanda returning to her seat, her injured hand clutched tight to her body. The shorter girl gave her colleague a squeeze of encouragement, then boldly stuck out her hand in front of the waiting Reverend Mould. She took all three strokes bravely, but the third one did make her suck in her breath noisily between her teeth. The punishment was quickly over, and Stephen stood up next, without being asked. He could hardly allow himself to be shown up in front of three women; his pride would not allow it.
As he passed Vicky returning to her seat, she gave him a brief, rather watery, smile. Standing in front of the Reverend, Stephen gritted his teeth and stuck out his hand. he almost jerked his hand back in shock as the first stroke seemed to cut his hand in two. The pain was worse than he had anticipated; sharp, immediate and rapidly followed by two more cuts, superimposed one on the other. Somehow he managed to restrain himself from shouting out, and then it was his turn to give a wan smile at Ruth as she took his place.
He returned to his chair and ruefully examined the palm of his hand. He did not really pay much attention as three sharp reports, punctuated by a hiss of air, drawn between tightly clenched teeth, signified that Ruth had been dealt with. Stephen's hand bore a broad red mark across the palm, exactly covering the main crease as he clenched his fist. The initial sting died quickly to a fierce throbbing as he rubbed his palm on his thigh to try and gain some relief. Ruth was just regaining her seat when the Reverend Mould spoke again.
"I believe that is sufficient to make two points. One, my discipline is not to be taken lightly and, two, even this light cane is more than sufficient to impress even the most hardened miscreant if used properly. We will return to that topic later. Now, I mentioned that each of you had broken two rules already. Mr. Langton's transgression is obvious and needs no further explanation. He has no one but himself to blame for his lateness at dinner, and will pay the appropriate penalty. You ladies may require more explanation of your fault. Each of you was given a dress code to comply with, yet none of you has chosen to comply with it. Yes, Miss Plum, you have a comment?"
Vicky Plum had put up her uninjured hand, just as she'd been taught long ago in play-school, to attract teacher's attention.
"I didn't think we started the course properly until tomorrow and, anyway, I don't have any athletics kit to wear."
"As to when we start, you now know differently. Regarding the kit situation, had you informed me, suitable arrangements could have been made. Does this rather disappointing excuse apply to anyone else?" His steely eyes scanned the room and Amanda Price put up her hand.
"Very well.I will arrange with Kim to supply you with some kit on loan after this session. I may as well explain, the reason for the dress code is to ensure equality between male and female students. I have already told you that this course involves some role-playing and while it might be feasible to have the ladies dressed as schoolgirls, it would be rather ridiculous to have a man of Mr. Langton's size dressed in shorts. Athletics kit is effectively without gender connotation so every participant feels a little more comfortable."
And equally embarrassed too, thought Stephen; you have to hand it to this nut case - he has all the answers thought out.
"To return to the main point," the Reverend regained Stephen's attention. "Your second transgression has earned each of you a further three strokes, but this time with my little tawse. You might wish to consider its effectiveness compared with the cane, as part of your closing essay at the end of the course."
He picked up the strap from the table. It was about eighteen inches long and perhaps a little over two inches wide. For about one third of its length it was divided into two tails, separated by a narrow V- shaped slit. Stephen noted that the leather was very stiff and when Mould picked up the strap it did not droop at all.
"For your information, this is a traditional Scottish tawse, sometimes called a Lochgelly tawse after the village where it was invented and manufactured. We will discuss the design and usage of tawses in more detail tomorrow. For the moment, suffice it to say that this particular implement is designed for application to the hands rather than any other part of the anatomy. Miss Price, will you come up here again please?"
Amanda looked as if she was about to faint, but with an obvious act of willpower she got up and went to the front of the room.
"Your left hand this time, if you please."
Gingerly, Amanda's left arm extended. Mould raised the tawse, bending his arm at the elbow so that the wicked leather strap flicked back over his shoulder. Amanda's eyes were tight shut and, at the very last minute, just as Stephen detected a movement of the Reverend's arm as the implement began its downward swing, she squealed "No!" at the top of her voice and jerked her hand away.
"That really won't do, Miss Price." the Reverend Mould's voice was mild. "You have one last chance. Extend your arm now, or I will ask Kim to come and hold you, and that will involve a doubling of your punishment."
"But I can't. The cane hurt so much. I'm just too frightened."
"Frightened you may be, but how scared will you be if it comes to a double the punishment?"
Very slowly, very reluctantly, Amanda extended her left arm. Mould grasped her wrist firmly with one free hand. "I will concede you just this one bit of assistance." He smiled at her with all the sincerity of a tiger smiling at its prey.
The strap made a much louder sound than the cane as it struck home, and Amanda's yell of agony was correspondingly augmented. Mould lost no time in dishing out three strokes, each time raising the tawse over his shoulder and bringing it down in a wide, sweeping arc. Amanda was crying openly by the time the Reverend released her wrist. Mould allowed her to stand for a moment nursing her hand, before directing her to sit down and calling for Vicky to step forward.
Stephen felt his excitement level beginning to rise. His right hand hurt like hell and he didn't relish being walloped with the the tawse, but he was a grown man and sturdy with it. It would do him no lasting harm. And here he was sitting with three beautiful girls, all in the same boat. And for them it must surely be a different matter. They would not be as hard and tough as he was and it was obvious, from what had been said about the dress code, that tomorrow was going to be a different kind of a day. The Reverend Mould was clearly not going to stop at smacking their hands. How would these lovely young women react to having their bottoms smacked? They probably hadn't worked out yet that such a fate was in store for them, but it would be worth a hell of a lot of discomfort to witness that! Quite exciting really. Stephen felt his penis harden as the tawse whacked down across Vicky's open palm.
Vicky made a valiant attempt to hold her position, but the thought of the second swipe of the tawse was just too much for her and she jerked her hand away just as the strap descended. The tails of the tawse caught the ends of her fingers, but Reverend Mould was implacable. He grabbed her hand and held it in position. "That stroke will not count, and will be repeated. And you will get one extra for moving!"
Vicky's face crumpled as she realised what that meant. Three times more the leather slashed across her palm before she joined Amanda, sobbing, back at her seat. Stephen got up and took his place in front of the Reverend. He had just time to take a deep breath before the tawse struck home. The impact was much heavier than that of the cane. Where the rattan had threatened to cut off his fingers, the tawse made him feel as if his hand was being crushed under a red-hot hammer. He gritted his teeth and held his position as the second swipe struck home. His hand was so numb now that surely nothing could hurt it any more! Wrong again! He gasped as the third swipe left his hand feeling as if it had been thrust in the fire, but he breathed a sigh of relief that he had maintained some dignity in front of the girls.
"You may sit down, Mr. Langton. Miss Jamieson, if you please?"
Stephen watched as Ruth made the lonely walk to the front of the room. God, but his hands hurt! He hoped she would be able to take her tawsing bravely. He had already decided that, of his three companions, Ruth was the one he would most willingly die for. She had a certain strength of character, style, he could not quite describe it, but she had certainly got it.
Ruth gasped. She had taken her first stroke and it had hurt. She stood her ground, however, her hand rigidly outstretched as she waited for the next impact, which was not long delayed. Her second cry tugged at his heart strings. She had obviously worked out that letting the tension out with a good yell made the pain easier to bear. She shrieked. That was it; she had taken her three. There was a tear or two at the corners of her eyes as she returned to her seat, but she had shown the other two up by holding her position throughout, without having to be forced.
"That concludes our session for today." Reverend Mould was still icy cool. "However there is one last piece of information you will find helpful. When you return to your rooms, you will find that Madam Karabengse has placed there a small jar of a somewhat pungent cream. This is called Moon Balm. It is prepared here, at the Priory, from a blend of natural herbs and shrubs, to an old recipe left here by one of the former occupants of this place when it was the home of a religious order. You will find that it has quite remarkable restorative powers if massaged into areas of bruising or abrasion. I commend it to you. Class dismissed."
Stephen stood up and went across to Ruth. She rose to meet him, her face very red, and holding her arms across her body, both hands tucked under her armpits.
"That was very brave of you," he said admiringly," Can I help you back to your room?"
She looked at him and smiled weakly, but with a hint of mischief. "Why, thank you, kind sir, but I'm sure I can manage. I was smacked on the hands, you know, not anywhere else. I can still walk!"
Stephen accepted the gentle put-down with good grace. In truth, his own hands hurt like hell, enough to dampen his ardour at least temporarily. Ruth's attempts at irony at least told him she had worked out the implications of what tomorrow held. He wondered if she would stay the course, or perhaps just steal away? No, she couldn't do that; she'd arrived by taxi and would have to order another to leave. His mind raced. Perhaps tomorrow would have its compensations after all!
The story so far: