The following series of events took place in my final year of school. As related previously, I was a prefect and Captain of my House, and so I had the power and responsibility to cane other boys when I felt that it was necessary. At my school, at this time, this power was quite restricted - up until a few years earlier it had been available to all prefects, but the Headmaster had now restricted it only to the Captain of the School, and the House Captains. The other prefects disciplinary powers had been significantly reduced - they could refer a boy to the Prefects' Meeting which would review a case and if needed the School Captain would cane a boy, but it was a fairly long winded process.
Besides myself, there were two other prefects in my house, and it was probably sometime in mid-March that one of them, Nigel Pointer knocked on my door one evening and asked to speak to me.
"Yes, come in, Pointer. What can I do for you?"
Nigel was not exactly a close friend of mine at that stage. He came from one of the exceptionally wealthy families associated with the school - there were a few - his father was quite a prominent businessman. His parents had split up, quite publicly, when we were in second form - and that was at a time when divorce was still fairly uncommon in Australia. It was also a time when custody nearly always went to the mother unless there was a very good reason for this not to happen. Nigel was one of those rare cases where a father got custody - he was the eldest son and his father's likely heir - and he'd also been old enough that his own choices had been considered. He'd wanted to stay with his father. But his younger siblings were placed in the custody of his mother. I didn't know all those details at this time - but over the course of this year, we became fairly good friends.
"Well Rysher... I want you to cane my little brother."
Jeremy Pointer - aged about 12, new to the school - he'd been with us about six weeks at this stage. Jeremy was a small boy - smaller than I'd been when I started at the school, and I was two years younger than normal - with golden curls and sparkling blue eyes. A very pretty child. He looked like a little angel really, which can be quite a significant handicap in a boys' boarding school. I'd noticed nothing particularly wrong with his behaviour.
"Hang on - you want me to cane Jeremy? Forgive me for asking an obvious question - but why?"
"He needs it." Nigel sat down on the edge of my bed. "Look, Nathan. The kid's been brought up by our mother and she's spoiled him rotten. Fortunately she saw sense and let Dad persuade her to send him here - but if something doesn't happen soon, it's going to be too late for him. He needs a good thrashing."
"Maybe - but if so, he'll get one soon enough."
"I'm not sure he will. I know for a fact he's earned at least three so far, and he's managed to talk his way out of each of them. He's too cute," Nigel said this as if it should have been a hanging offence. "And his Form Master is too soft." On that I had some agreement, the man who'd been our Form Master in our first year had recently retired and his replacement seemed all too intent on trying to be the first formers friend - as a sixth former, we regarded ourselves as keepers of the schools traditions and standards and were merciless in our discussions of our perceptions of our masters failings. This man certainly used the cane - but not as often as we thought he should. First formers needed to be brought into line quickly, for their own good. Yes, we were that pompous and judgmental I am afraid.
"Even so, I can't cane him just because you want me to."
"I know that - I don't really expect you to. But he's probably going to give you a reason sooner or later - I know him - and I just want to make sure you don't fall for him trying to talk his way out. I mean, I can talk to you about this, and you'll listen. I can't exactly tell the Masters what to do."
"O.K. Understood. If he earns one he gets it."
"Cheers. I owe you several."
I filed away our conversation, fully intending to act on it if it became appropriate. I agreed with Nigel in broad terms - I thought that if he was right, and he should know, and his brother was spoiled, the sooner that started to change the better.
But no immediate opportunity to affect such a change developed, and it was probably at least a month later when something finally happened. This was my final year of school - and entry to university loomed large in my life. My eventual aim, to take a Commission as an officer in the Army or Navy was something I was having to delay because of my accelerated education. So my plan was to attend the University of Melbourne.
My resources were rather limited - I had a small inheritance from my parents but not enough to pay for my university education. The school had by now made it clear to me that if I gained a place, steps would be taken to ensure I was able to go to university but I didn't want to rely on that form of charity unless I had absolutely no choice. I was determined to win scholarships and to this end was working on a couple of major projects.
Our school library was limited - it wasn't bad for a school library, I suppose - but I needed as much access as possible to other libraries. The one I really needed as much access to was the Baillieu Library at the University of Melbourne.
Senior boys were allowed into the city of Melbourne on exeat occasionally, if we had a good reason to go, and when I had such an exeat, I almost immediately headed to the University. But I couldn't get access as often as I'd have liked - the school week was busy, and when I went to the university, four or more hours could easily be spent just traveling. The school was as accommodating as it could be. But I still wanted more access.
So when my House Master summoned me one Wednesday evening and asked me if I wanted an exeat to Melbourne the following day, I was extremely interested. It was a school day as well but in our final year, it wasn't that unusual for a sixth boy to occasionally be allowed to miss a day of normal classes to work on assignments of various sorts. I was surprised to be offered an exeat out of the blue, and I suspected there was a catch. And there was - Jeremy Pointer.
Jeremy had an appointment the following day at the Royal Children's Hospital, located quite near the University. Under normal circumstances he would have been taken to such an appointment by the house Matron, but for some reason, which wasn't explained to me, this wasn't possible. He needed to be delivered to the Hospital by 10 in the morning, and then brought back to school sometime after 2pm. So if I was willing to deliver him, and bring him back, I'd have four hours or so to spend at the University.
Looking back, it seems somewhat odd that a 15 year old was trusted in this way - to take the responsibility for delivering a 12 year old to the hospital and then bringing him back. But I was a Prefect, and therefore deemed to be very responsible. And I had made this trip three or four times already that year. The House Master was even willing to throw in some money so I could buy lunch. It was a good deal, and I took it.
Everything went smoothly in the morning. We boarded a train to the city, and once there, we took a tram up to the Hospital. Matron had given me quite detailed directions on where to take Jeremy and I delivered him to his destination a little before ten. I spoke to the receptionist and found out that he would be ready to return to the school at around 2.30, so I told him I would pick him up then.
Then I headed to the university and into the library - and worked solidly until after 2. I didn't even pause to buy my lunch.
I headed back to the hospital, and arrived about 25 minutes past 2. And discovered that Jeremy had been released about 15 minutes earlier, and was gone.
I hung around for about 30 minutes, thinking that perhaps he had just headed off to the toilets. I became more and more worried as time went on, and he didn't reappear. I walked up and down the nearby corridors trying to figure out where he might have gone, trying to decide whether or not to call the school. Then at 3pm, he finally reappeared. I grabbed him by the arm, and took him out of the hospital as fast as I could, more or less dragging him. I was relieved - both because he was safe, and also less significantly, but still in mind, because I was responsible for him - but I was also fairly angry. As we got outside and headed to the tram stop, I asked him where he'd been.
He'd been to get a milkshake and something to eat. He'd also been given some money for lunch, and he hadn't had a chance to spend it yet. When he was released by the hospital staff, he was hungry and it was only a little after two. He'd decided to go and get something to eat, with the intention of being back by half past two. But he'd lost track of time.
I wasn't impressed. And as we stood waiting for the tram, I let him know that I wasn't impressed. Initially, he treated my anger as a big joke. Then he became sullen, which annoyed me even more. And then, he started to cry which really made me angry. But it also stopped me yelling at him - because some other people had arrived at the tram stop as well, and we were standing there in our uniforms - uniforms of the most prestigious private school in the state. Not embarrassing the school was a big concern of mine, and a few people were staring at us. So I shut up - and we headed back to the train station, and then to school.
The whole trip was rather trying. He stopped crying after a while, and started reading his book. I read mine. I was starving by this stage, because I hadn't taken the time to get any lunch myself, and with the delay he caused I wanted to get him back to school as quickly as possible. But as we were heading back I was considering my discussion with Nigel and whether or not Jeremy's behaviour justified me caning him. With some reluctance, I decided that I wasn't in the correct mood to fairly assess this situation. I needed to get him back to school, get some food into myself, and then decide calmly and rationally.
We arrived back at school well in time for dinner, and after a meal and talking to some of my friends, I felt myself to be in a much better frame of mind. So I decided I would talk to Jeremy about what had happened - I was thinking that at most I might give him a stroke - and that only because of the promise his brother had extracted from me.
But I did need to talk to him - so I headed to the junior common room to find him.
"I mean, he went nuts. All I did was go to get a milkshake - you would have thought I'd killed someone or something. He thinks he's so good, just because he's Captain. My brother should have been Captain. He'd be much better at it, than..."
He stopped. And slowly turned around with a look of surprise on his face. "Rysher, um..."
"Come with me."
I lead him to my room and told him to wait outside. I entered my room, opened my wardrobe and removed my cane from its hiding place. I placed it on my desk, and I called him in.
He walked in and his eyes almost immediately fixated on the cane.
"I'm sorry, Rysher."
"Sorry I heard you, maybe."
"Well, are you sorry because you said I think I'm so good? Or sorry, because you think your brother should have been Captain?"
"I don't believe you. And frankly, I don't think I care that much. I do think I'm pretty good, Jeremy. And so does the school. And maybe your brother might have been a better Captain than me - I think he'd have done a good job, myself. But I got picked. And that's the way it is. Your brother doesn't seem to have a problem with it - so I don't see any reason you should." I reached over and pulled out my desk chair. "Now bend over and grab the seat of the chair."
"But... I don't want to be caned!"
I was, frankly dumbfounded. Not that he didn't want to be caned - that made perfect sense. But he said it in a way that gave me the distinct impression that he thought his wants and desires about this had some relevance.
"Jeremy, I don't give a damn about whether or not you want to be caned. Bend over."
"Oh, please, Rysher..."
"You bloody well can. And if you don't, I'll have to send you to the Headmaster - and you don't want that to happen." I thought back to the time I had had to see him for refusing a caning. "You really don't want that to happen."
"I can't be caned. I had to see the doctor today. You could damage me."
"What were you seeing the doctor for?"
"I don't want to say. You can't make me say that. It's embarrassing."
He actually had given me pause for thought. I had no idea why he'd had to go up to the hospital - and I suppose it was possible, there was a reason I shouldn't cane him.
"All right - you can go and see Matron, and if she'll give you a note, I won't cane you. Go on, go see her - although I should warn you that she's not likely to be impressed unless there is a very good reason."
"Oh... well, no, all right, I won't... but please don't cane me!" Tears were welling in his eyes.
I picked up my cane and swished it through the air. His eyes followed it. I bent it into almost a semi-circle and let it spring back. I made my voice as calm as possible - if he didn't respond this time I would have to send him to the Headmaster - and that would mean a near certain flogging for him. The Headmaster would have him held down if he refused to bend over. A caning was definitely in his future.
"Jeremy... I know you're scared. Believe me, I do know how much the cane hurts and it's not a nice experience. I've been caned plenty of times myself, so I know why you're scared - you haven't been caned before, have you?"
"Yes, well I remember the first time I was caned as well and how scared I was - and I was only ten. You're twelve. I survived it, you will survive it as well. And Jeremy, you don't have a choice in this. You can take a caning from me - or you can take a caning from the headmaster. And I can't cane you bearbrass. He can, and he will, if I send you up to see him. Now, are you going to do the smart thing and take a caning from me? Or are you going to be silly and get twice as many on your bare bottom from the Headmaster?"
"Will it hurt?"
"Yes, of course it will bloody well hurt. It's a caning, Pointer, it's meant to hurt. It's going to hurt a lot." His tears increased. "But it's over pretty quickly as well. Now how about it, Jeremy? Are you going to bend over of your own free will, and take your punishment like a man? Or are you going to take it kicking and screaming like a little baby who can't face up to what he's done wrong?"
"I can't take it like a man. I can't stop crying. I'm so scared."
"Jeremy - if you bend over now, even though you're scared, then you are taking it like a man. It's all right to be scared. I've been scared every time I've been caned. And as for your crying - you're going to walk out my door crying and everyone is going to see. Isn't it better that they know you're crying because I hurt you - and not that your crying because you're too much of a coward to take the cane? There's no shame in crying because you've been caned. I've done that. A lot of us have."
"Damn right, really - and if anyone in this house teases you because you've cried from getting the cane, then I'll cane them as well. All right?"
"All right - we'll start again then. Bend over and grab the seat."
He did so very slowly. I took aim and delivered a swift, firm stroke.
He stood up immediately, his hand flying around to his bottom. I gave him about ten seconds.
"Bend over - you're getting two more, and you stay down for both of them."
He bent over again much more swiftly this time. And I gave him two more hard slashes with the cane, as quickly as I could. I wanted him to stay down as instructed - but I wanted to make that as easy for him as I could.
Three strokes was rather harsh for what he'd done I think - but giving him three strokes meant that his tears were very unlikely to attract adverse comment. Nobody would tease a first form boy because three strokes made him cry.
"You can go... no, wait... Jeremy - you don't have to tell me, but why did you see the doctor today?"
"An ear infection."
"All right - you can go."
I sat down on my bed after he left. I was shaking a little bit - I often did after caning a boy - but I also felt quite satisfied with what I'd done. I felt I'd done the right thing by Jeremy.
Nigel came to see me about half an hour later.
"Nathan, I've just heard what Jeremy was saying in the common room. I'm sorry about that - he shouldn't have said it."
"Not a problem, old son. Hey, who knows - he might have even been right."
"Oh, I'm sure he was right. But he shouldn't have said it anyway. And you did cane him?"
"How'd he take it?"
I lay back on my bed. "He took it like a man."
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