Now to write about my public beating. Unlike the flogging experience I described where I felt the punishment was somewhat unjustified, on this occasion, I had to admit I deserved exactly what I got. I knew what I was doing when I did it and it's hard to complain about getting caught.
My school was somewhat isolated - we weren't out in the sticks, by car we were less than half an hour from a major city, but when you're limited to walking or riding a bike everywhere, it really did limit our mobility. One effect of this is that smoking in the school was fairly rare - few chaps could get cigarettes with any regularity. Another effect was that some boys had a fair amount of spare cash (if their parents gave them more pocketmoney than the school suggested). This combination meant that if you could get a pack into the school, you could sell each cigarette for considerably more than it was worth in the outside world. There were always some people willing to pay for them.
Most packs came in one at a time in the bags of day boys - and while the school frowned on that, and anyone who was found to be doing that was fairly severely punished, it wasn't really a major concern.
Periodically though, someone tried to get things running on a larger scale - setting up a regular substantial supply. There were always a few entrepreneurs around.
One of these scams was operating towards the end of my second year - I was eleven and a half. Somebody was bringing in a lot of cigarettes and the masters knew it - because they were catching more and more people smoking. The volume was enough that they took it very seriously.
I think part of the reason they were so concerned was the methodology involved. The guys who were running this scam were protecting themselves by using first form boarders to peddle their wares - and through a process of intimidation and the paying of bonuses in proportion to any punishment a first former received, they ensured their silence.
Anyway - either because of the cigarettes, or because of some other issue, one long weekend near the end of the year, suddenly all exeats were cancelled - no boarder could leave the school, no boarder could leave the main area of the school without an excuse, and not many excuses were being accepted.
Anyway - on the Sunday morning I found myself tapped by a third form boy as I came out of the chapel. He said he had a proposal for me that could be quite profitable.
This wasn't that uncommon - because I was two years younger than the average age in my form, I had a reputation for being something of a brain - and occasionally boys asked me to 'help them with their homework' - sometimes they did just want help - sometimes they wanted a complete rough copy done that they could then just copy out themselves. I generally did the former - and occasionally did the latter - I only got the suggested pocket money and from memory, it was about 80 cents a week, so sometimes I was on the lookout for extra money.
Anyway - we walked away from the chapel and he asked me if it was true, I had permission to go down to the weather station each evening.
The school was quite spread out with most of the buildings concentrated near its centre. On the absolute edges of the school, probably about half a mile from that main area was our science station - it consisted of a small observatory and weather station. I was one of the science master's pets - and I was responsible for going to the station each evening and morning to get the maximum and minimum temperatures. So I confirmed that, yes, I did have that permission.
"OK, Rysh - here's the deal. You know there's a fire access gate near the station? Be there at 6 o'clock and you'll be given a package. Bring it back up to the school and give it to me and there's ten dollars in it for you."
"What's in the package?" I was pretty sure I knew.
"Do you want the money or not?"
"I'll see you round behind the craftshop - I'll be there at 10 past. Try and be there as quick as you can."
The day passed without incident - I was nervous about what I'd been asked to do - but I didn't really see much of a risk. I went down there every night and I generally didn't see anyone while I was coming back most nights until I got back to the main school - and I could get around to the craftshop fairly easily without ever getting into a heavily populated region if I took a fairly circuitous route.
Just before six I headed down - except for the fact it was raining quite heavily, nothing special was happening. I took the readings I needed to, and then headed to the gate. It was starting to get windy and from here, I could see the bay. A storm was coming in pretty quickly.
Just after six a boy of about 16 or 17 appeared, wearing overalls that marked him as an apprentice at a large industrial plant that bordered the school on that side.
"You here for the package?"
He handed it over - it was fairly large, but I could carry it under one arm.
"Tell Alisdair, he needs to get the money to me by Friday if he wants another lot."
He turned away - the rain was getting even heavier and he obviously didn't want to hang around in it. I was standing there with a brown paper wrapped package that was worth, what to me, was a small fortune. I didn't want it to get damaged so I took off my japara jacket and wrapped the package in it - I'd get wet, but I'd dry out.
The name Alisdair had thrown me a bit - I could only think of one Alisdair in the school - and he was a prefect. I found it hard to believe that he could be involved in this. He always had a lot of money - but his family was extremely wealthy so that didn't seem unlikely.
I headed up towards the school - it was starting to bucket down and crossing the paddocks I had no protection from the rain so I was getting drenched - I wanted to get in as fast as possibly so I took a direct route to the craftshop - it didn't seem likely anyone would be out in this weather.
And I ran straight into the School Captain.
"Rysher - get yourself inside. You'll catch your death."
"I've just got to deliver something."
"It can wait."
"No, it can't."
"What have you got?"
I hesitated for too long trying to think of an answer. And he reached over and grabbed my japara wrapped parcel. He pulled the jacket off - looked at the package and shook it.
"Come with me."
He lead me into the main school, and down the hall to the prefect's room. It was getting close to dinner time, so it was almost empty - but Alisdair Frobisher was in there, along with one other prefect.
The Captain pulled out a pocket knife and opened the package - Alisdair was looking across the room at us, basically completely calm. And inside the package were packs and packs of cigarettes.
"I think you need to see the Headmaster, Nathan." He looked up at the clock. "After dinner, I think." He realized I was dripping all over the floor. "And if you don't get changed, the Matron will skin me. Alisdair - could you take Nathan up to his dormitory so he can get changed - and don't let him get rid of anything. I've got to see the Head."
"All right, Henry. You come with me, Rysher."
Alisdair lead me towards my boarding house, and up to my dorm. He didn't say anything until we got up there.
"Well, you're in serious trouble, aren't you?"
I tried a bluff. I was scared, but more significantly, I was curious. "Not as much as some people could be."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Just that the Headmaster might be very interested to know exactly who is behind this scam?"
He stood there watching me as I stripped off my clothes. And when I was completely naked, he suddenly leaned in on me, his tone quite menacing.
"What do you think you know?"
"I know it all." I didn't, of course, but his threatening me made me pretty sure I was on to something. And I knew he had a lot to lose. I was going to get the cane for this - but I knew it wouldn't go any further than that. He was facing almost certain expulsion - and I also knew he was hoping for an Air Force career, which would no longer be an option.
"If you keep your mouth shut, I'll make it worth your while."
"All right - fifty. Fifty dollars on the last day of the year, if you keep quiet about this. Give no names. Take the blame."
"Ten now, forty then."
"All right." He took out a wallet and handed me a ten dollar note - it was actually the first time I'd ever seen one - decimal currency was a fairly new phenomena here at the time. I stuck it into a pair of socks as I grabbed some clothes and got dressed.
We headed down to the dining room. I sat through dinner, but I didn't eat anything - I noticed that Alisdair had no such problems up on his table.
As I left the dining room, I was taken in hand by the Captain who lead me to the Headmaster's study.
The Headmaster was sitting behind his desk, looking very stern. He told me to sit down, and told the Captain to take a seat as well.
"All right, Rysher. You were found in possession of a large quantity of cigarettes. Do you admit this?"
"Rysher, you are facing a great deal of trouble here. On first appearances, it seems as if you are involved in this cigarette smuggling and sales. Now, Kell here," he gestured to the Captain, "has suggested an alternative interpretation. He has suggested that it is possible that you were forced into moving those cigarettes. That somebody may have bullied you into making a pick up for them. If that's so - simply tell me who it was, and you can go."
I sat there in silence.
"Rysher - if you don't tell me who is involved in this, I'm going to have to make an example of you. I'm willing to let you off completely, if you just give me a name. It's not just the cigarettes, boy - the boys who are doing this are threatening to beat up first formers. If you don't tell me who is involved in this, you are complicit in those threats."
I sat there in silence.
"Very well. You've had your chance. I'm afraid I will have to take a different approach. Kell - pass the word that there is to be a boarder's assembly tomorrow at nine in the theatre. And make sure the block is in place."
"Take Rysher to his dormitory - he's to go to bed immediately so he can contemplate his future."
I stood up and walked out of the room with the Captain - I was scared, but fifty dollars was fifty dollars - it was a fortune - it was more than a year's pocket money. As we walked, the Captain tried to reason with me - he told me he'd gone out on a limb to try and get me lenient treatment (and I believed him) and that he was sure if I'd just give up the names I could still escape punishment. He told me he understood the idea of schoolboy honour - but that it couldn't apply when first formers were being terrorized. I agreed with him - but I wanted the money.
I didn't sleep well that night, and I only went to breakfast because my House Captain made me - and told me I needed to eat and if I didn't he'd cane me even before the main event started. He also supervised me dressing to make sure I didn't try the double underwear trick.
Everybody knew there was a special assembly - and most people knew that it was because somebody was to be beaten, and I'm sure quite a few knew it was me.
They certainly knew when they entered the theatre - because everything was there according to procedure - at the front of the theatre was the 'block' which was used for public beatings - it was called that because of the association of that term with public beheadings - what it actually was was an old kneeler from the school chapel, prior to renovation - I've looked online and something similar can be seen at http://www.kneeler.com/
Next to the block, leaning against it was a cane. That let everybody know why we were there - telling who the object of the exercise was also easy - when public beatings occurred, the School Captain, and the boy's House Captain assisted - so they were off to one side of the room with me between them. Both of them had tried to persuade me that it wasn't too late to come forward with a name.
The Headmaster swept in, in his gown, and waited for everyone to settle down.
"Gentlemen, as you are all aware, we have a serious cigarette problem in this school. I know there are senior boys involved in this, and I do intend to find out who they are. Any senior boy I find who is involved will be expelled. Any junior boy involved will suffer the same fate that Master Rysher is about to experience."
"Bring him forward."
The Captain took my arm and guided me to the block. The way it was situated was so I was facing away from my schoolmates - giving them a clear view of the cane's target area.
I bent over before being asked. The School Captain moved around to the front of the block, and crouched down taking my hands to hold me in position there. The House Captain knelt down behind and to my side and held onto my legs - basically they held me in place - not holding me hard enough to hurt me - but I had no freedom of movement.
I felt the cane being laid across the seat of my trousers and then being lifted off. And then the head started caning me. It hurt a lot - but I was desperate not to cry out. The pain was bad - but the embarrassment factor was also pretty profound. I was being punished in front of everybody, and after only two strokes, I knew I wasn't going to be able to take it at all stoically. I wish I could report that I took it bravely - but I didn't. I had to be held down - and after four strokes, I was screaming at the headmaster to please stop. Needless to say, he didn't. In fact, I think the last two strokes were even harder.
When I was released, I could barely walk - my legs had turned to jelly and the Captain had to steady me. He spoke to the Head quietly "Can I take him to the infirmary, Sir?"
"Yes, do so."
He took me to the infirmary where the Matron took charge of me - she made me strip off my trousers and my underwear so she could see my bottom - which was a mass of bruising.
I was used to her being rather nice, especially if you were sick, or in pain. Even if you'd been punished. But she wasn't nice on this occasion - she was efficient in assessing whether I was injured or not, but she was cold. And that hurt - not as much as the caning had, but it wasn't nice.
"Stop crying - you did the wrong thing and you've been punished for it. Don't feel sorry for yourself."
"Good. You're lucky the Headmaster did a good on you, or I'd be more than a little inclined to belt you myself. You're a young fool, Nathan. The bullies who are running this little scheme let you take the blame, while they rake in the money. You're supposed to be a smart boy - and a principled one, as well, I thought. If your mother could see you now, she'd be absolutely disgusted with you..."
I broke down completely at that and didn't hear anything else she said.
I got my money on the last day of term - by which time I was feeling a little less guilty. Of course, then I couldn't work out what to do with forty dollars - if I bought anything obvious, questions would be asked, as they would if anyone found the two crisp twenty dollar notes. I wound up burying the money - I did spend it eventually, but it took a while.
More significantly, though - that occasion began me thinking. I realized that the Matron was right - my mother would have been revolted with my behaviour and I started cleaning up my act. I didn't become a saint, or anything close to it - but I started trying a lot harder.
I think this is a caning success story - overall it did start to have a positive effect on my behaviour.
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