A Birch Too Far

April 25, 1896
Penelope Sumter

“Good morning, Penny.” Lucy and Jenny chorused when I arrived at breakfast.

I smiled graciously biting my bitter tongue all the while.

“Good morning.” I replied taking my seat across from them.

My stomach turned just to look at them and I could only manage to nibble at my breakfast. I had no doubt they were still laughing at me. Neither had the guts to do it to my face but that is just as well. It is easier to ignore the ridicule behind your back.

“Not eating this morning?” Mr. Carrington asked.

Ever since the night of the strapping he has gone out of his way to be kind to me. In the past he would hardly give me a second look but it is as though there was some new kind of respect exchanged between us that night. I have the feeling he agreed with my actions if not in principle at least in deed.

“I am not very hungry is all.” I replied.

“You are not coming down with something are you?” Mrs. Carrington piped in.

“Oh no. I am fine.”

“Maybe I should check your temperature just the same. You have been a little flushed lately.”

Jenny and Lucy were each covering their mouths with their hands and giggling. Undoubtedly they considered themselves to be discreet.

“Please, I am feeling fine.” I replied hoping she would soon drop the subject.

“Very well.” Mrs. Carrington replied after a glance from Mr. Carrington.

Observing the two giggling girls across from me actually reinvigorated my appetite. I had felt the tiniest twinges of guilt for my plans soon to unfold. Guilt is a funny thing though, it only has teeth when the conscience is not clear. Little did they know but their indiscreet giggles at my expense cleared mine for good.

“I am heading into town this morning. My carriage has room to drop some of you off at Primrose Hall if desired.” Mr. Carrington offered as we were finishing the meal.

“If it is not an imposition, I would be most grateful.” I replied first.

“Not at all.” He said with a nod of his head. “The carriage will be out front in ten minutes.”

I nodded my understanding and a few of the other girls also accepted his gracious invitation, including Elizabeth. I was somewhat surprised Edith had not taken him up, but perhaps she is still uneasy to be in my presence. I am quite over the incident myself and I must admit I am even a little impressed with Edith’s role in recent events. Of course I have no intention of telling her such, at least for now anyway.

Mr. Carrington could not have picked a better day to be generous. For my current plan to unfold properly, I needed to arrive at Primrose Hall before Jenny. The carriage ride insured I would.
It was in fact a quiet ride. Not a word was spoken beyond customary politeness. I have sensed since my late night strapping the girls have become more fearful of our Master. Strange that I on the receiving end would feel less. I have never feared consequences for my actions only action without consequence, perhaps that is what sets me apart.

Mr. Carrington held me back when we arrived and the other girls exited.

“You have a dangerous look about you today.” He said boldly.

“I do?” I fluttered my eyelashes in imitation of innocence.

“Most certainly. I have already asked Mrs. Carrington to have a word with Lucy and Jenny. Their behavior at breakfast was appalling.”

“I am certain that is not my concern.” I replied.

“Indeed. They have undoubtedly teased you to no end since Monday night.”

“It is to be expected.”

“Not in my house.”

“In any house. Whether in the open or behind the back it is a custom older than time.”

He smiled.

“Please, for your own sake, do nothing foolish today.”

“I promise, I will do nothing foolish at all.”

I smiled back at him as our eyes met. I blinked and looked away as I felt as though through his gaze he would read my thoughts.

“Very well, Penelope. I will see you this evening. Pleasant day.”

“Pleasant day.”

I stepped from the carriage and hurried up the steps of Primrose Hall without a look backward.

I waited in the hall around the corner of Mr. Bard’s classroom. From my position I could see the entrance to the class but was not easily seen from hall approaching it. It was not long before Jenny and Lucy strolled up. When they did, I rushed down the hall and entered the class behind them. As they maneuvered for seats I subtly picked a desk directly forward of the one Jenny sat in.

I smiled back at the two girls and waved politely. They pretended to smile and wave back. Elizabeth sat diagonally forward of me and turned toward me.

“Why do you bother with them?” She whispered.

“Are you jealous?” I whispered back.

“Not of you or them. Not ever.” She hissed back.

I smiled at the hint of anger in her voice. I would have replied but it was then, Mr. Bard entered.

“Good morning, ladies.”

“Good morning, Mr. Bard.” We replied in near perfect unison.

The moment of my preparation arrived and I surprised myself with the steadiness of my nerves and the calmness of my heart.

“Pass forward your essays.” Mr. Bard instructed as he opened his case and placed the books within on his otherwise barren desktop.

I sat mine atop my desk and waited for the stack from behind me to arrive. After a moment they did and I added my pages to the stack while subtly removing Jenny’s. I passed the pages on ahead with hardly a pause and quickly folded the evidence in my hands away. I stashed it fittingly within the sheets of music in my book basket.

Mr. Bard collected the sheets from the front row students. Our order of business for the day was a test which he began distributing after setting the stack of essays on his desk.

It was about an hour into the exam when my plan began to unfold perfectly.

“Penelope.” Mr. Bard called.

“Yes, sir.”

“What is the name of the mountain top where the Greek gods were rumored to live upon?”

“Mount Olympus, sir.” I replied without a pause.

“I see, and Aphrodite is the Greek god of?”

“She is the goddess of love, sir.”

“Quite true. Jenny.” His voice was near a bark when he uttered her name.

I struggled not to smile in delight.

“Who is the Greek god of the seas?”

“Um, Sirens?” Her voice quivered.

“As I suspected. Front of the class now Miss Abbott.” He ordered Jenny.

She visibly swallowed before rising from her seat and standing at attention in the front of the room. All pretense of exam taking fell away as the entire class watched and listened to the scene unfolding before them.

“Do you think me an idiot, Miss Abbott?”

“No, sir.”

“Then why do you think you can hand in your classmates work as your own?”

“I would never do that!” She nearly shouted at him.

“I have the proof right here. Clearly in your own handwriting and just as clearly copied word for word from Miss Sumter’s essay.”

Jenny stared at the page. Her mouth opened and shut without sound like a fish out of water. Elizabeth turned back to look at me as though she suspected the truth. I fluttered my eyelashes and shrugged at her. Elizabeth smiled back at me before facing front again.

“That is not my essay.” Jenny finally said.

“I am glad we can agree on that.”

“No, you do not understand. That is not what I turned in. I did not copy that I swear. I am being set up.” She whined to him.

“That is ridiculous, Miss Abbot. Have at least the small amount of courage to admit what you have done.”

“But I didn’t. Penelope hates me, she is doing this! I’m sure of it.” Her perfect English faltered as she became more desperate.

“How could Miss Sumter have written an essay in your handwriting?”

How indeed? I spent two whole nights carefully crafting the forgery by candlelight. I studied her every nuance of writing and practiced for hours before setting forth to copy my own text in her pen. She would never be able to prove it was not hers. I smiled internally, satisfied with a job well done.

“I don’t know, but it must be true, sir.”

“Absolutely ridiculous, young lady. Cheating is unacceptable and you will be severely punished for it. Our last cheater at Primrose was birched publicly in the main hall by the Dean himself.”

“Oh please, no sir! Not that please, I will do anything. I beg you have mercy.” Jenny fell to her knees before him.

“If you will not admit your guilt, I have no choice but to turn it over to the Dean.”

“But I did not do it.” She whined.

“Remove your dress, Miss Abbott.”


“Now! Miss Abbott.” He thundered.

Jenny began to cry as she removed her dress. Mr. Bard made her strip naked before us which was more than I had hoped for. She stood in a ridiculous pose attempting to preserve modesty. I struggled not to laugh.

Mr. Bard produced a birch from within his desk.

“I swear I am innocent, sir.”

He ignored her.

“Miss Sumter would you join me here.”

It was not a question.

“Yes, sir.”

I stood carefully and made my way to the front.

“As the offended party you are entitled to help deliver justice.”
I tried to look sad.

“Yes, sir.”

“I think a total of 24 strokes appropriate given the seriousness of the affair and her lack of contrition.”

“No, sir!” Jenny screamed.

“Silence! Have you no self respect? Anymore whining and I will double the strokes. Clear?”

Jenny trembled as tears fell freely down her cheeks.

“Yes, sir.” She replied after a quiet moment.

“Bend over my desk and grip the far edge, Miss Abbott.”

She complied without further fuss. I could see the terror in her eyes and it was all I could do contain my giddiness.

“I will allow you the first 12 Miss Sumter. I will hold her down and then we will switch for the second 12.”

“Yes, sir.” I replied and took the proffered birch from his hand.

I savored every stroke. I kept them low and remembered to flick my wrist on impact, just as father had taught me at home. Jenny kicked and struggled more after each successive stroke.

The class was lively with muffled giggles. I relished in her kicks knowing the view she was shamefully affording to all. By the fourth stroke she was no longer crying but wailing. I almost felt sorry for her, but then I recalled being bound to a post in the night air. My heart hardened and I swung again.

When all 12 were delivered I found I had to dab sweat from forehead. Birching is such hard work.

I switched places with Mr. Bard but it was hardly necessary for me to hold her down anymore. She was exhausted from fighting and lay limp on the desktop. Her wails continued as did her kicks but any effort she made to rise was half-hearted at best. I easily held her in place.

When it was over I helped lift her up to stand. Our eyes met and I could see the fuming hatred directed at me. I wondered if she would ever realize the justice served here today was fitting and deserved.
Mr. Bard forced her to sit naked on the stool for the remainder of class. Her buttocks were welted and spotted with prickles of blood. Her face stained with tears and her body wracked with uncontrolled sobbing.

At the end of class I expected all would be over. Mr. Bard apparently took greater offense to cheating than I anticipated.

I heard him say, “Come along Miss Abbott, we will pay a visit to the Dean now.”

I walked out the door and wondered briefly if I had gone too far.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a story....Gary

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Erotic. Sweet justice, even if unjustly obtained.
Mr R Fane