All Hallows’ Evening
It was 1965 when I took up my first teaching post in a village school with just four small classes; two infant and two junior. The Head Mistress took the top juniors and I took the lower. In a corner of the site was a small house for the head but since she was living in a brand new bungalow at the edge of the village, I was allowed to rent the house quite cheaply. Not every young woman wants to live in the country but the life suited me and after only a few weeks I was already totally involved with all the rhythms of the village. I had been very involved with the Harvest Festival and now it was going to be Halloween: the day before All Saints’ Day. Halloween was not much celebrated in England in those days being regarded as either a vulgar American custom or a strange Scottish one. However, there was some discussion about it and usually schools would get the children to write some stories about witches and such like. The children in my class asked me whether the bad sprits really were abroad on October 31st and I said they were not “Some naughty boys are of course, but that’s all.” They all laughed and I gave Halloween very little more in the way of thought, which may well have been a mistake.
The chairman of the board that ran the school was Sir John Thornton who was the local landowner and a very rich man. He was just forty having come into his inheritance at the premature death of his father. He was rather keen on me and was always inviting me to little social events where he was very correct and formal but plainly anxious to go further. I, however, being eighteen years younger than him was not too keen on going further and took no hints. Then he invited me to come along to his house on All Hallows’ Evening for supper and to listen to some records he had just bought including “The Danse Macabre” by Saint Saens. “We could play it at midnight if that is not too late” he suggested. Now that may sound rather dull but actually he was very good company and his suppers delicious so it was arranged that I would arrive at nine o’clock that evening. Our experience that night changed life for both of us.
It was a cold clear night with the leaves littering the roads sounding crisp and frosty as I walked on them and I was glad to get into the warmth of his house. He was using a little parlour that night: there was a warm fire burning in the hearth and the light shone on ornaments and pictures making them all look cheerful. He already had some music playing and a lovely supper spread out on a small table in one corner. Even the corners tucked away from the light seemed friendly and full of promise. He gave me a glass of sherry and I sat down near the fire while he sat opposite.
I took one small sip of the sherry and a ripple ran across my sight; for a moment everything was distorted and I heard mischievous and malicious laughter away in the distance. When my sight cleared the room was oddly different although everything was the same: the colours seemed harsher and the light from the fire frightening not friendly; dark corners held fearful promise; and the supper table looked somehow unwholesome. Sir John himself seemed different: he looked more assertive and confident. He was looking at me in a controlling and manipulative manner almost one of cruelty. “Now my dear we are alone at last and I have a little question that I have longed to put to you. Were you spanked as a child and teenager?”
What a ridiculous question that was! Few children growing up in the fifties were not spanked at home and school. I had been a “good girl” and so avoided the ruler, slipper and cane at school, although all were in frequent use, but at home my mother had ensured I remained good with her hand and a wooden spoon. When I answered that I had he questioned me about my experience at some length and I felt uncomfortable but powerless to stop this odd conversation.
“Well Miss Clark, are you using corporal punishment at the school?” I had no need and told him so: I was perfectly capable of controlling a class of children without spanking them. “Well, well and pretty smug about that you are too but that may change in time. You may find the need to use the slipper, the cane or…….” and here he paused as though anticipating a treat, “….the birch. Have you any experience of the birch Miss Clark? Have you kissed the birch after it kissed you?”
I hated this conversation but I felt powerless; there was something about him and the situation that made it impossible for me to assert myself. I had to answer that I had no experience of the birch. “Well we must change that! At least give you something to look at. Nanny will have one I know. When we were children she was never without one.” With that he rang the bell.
The woman, who entered, with no sign of deference, was in her seventies. Slightly stooped she looked, to me at least, like the last person on earth that should be put in charge of children. Cold, calculating and cruel were the words I would have used to describe her. “Miss Clark has no experience of a birch Nanny. Would you be so good as to bring in a regular birch for us?” She turned and looked at me with a sunless smile and left returning shortly with a birch rod. It was about three feet long made up of a dozen or so switches from a tree although what type I wasn’t sure. I was terrified by the way the evening was turning but felt unable to change anything.
“Now Miss Clark I really think that you should experience the kiss of the birch and then if you teach in a school using it you will understand its effects. Nanny I would like you to give Miss Clark some real experience of our little friend.”
I cried out in distress “But I have done nothing wrong. It is unfair to birch me.”
“Come, come Miss Clark are you really telling me that there are no undetected misdemeanours, no little sins from your teenage years? Surely the “good girl” has some little secrets.”
Straight away there came into my head with awful clarity several undiscovered incidents from my teenage years. The one that came first was the time I had stolen money from my Mother’s purse and, together with my best friend Pauline, truanted from afternoon school. We had gone to the other side of town to a little shop next to the school where the rough boys went and bought a pack of five Player’s Weights cigarettes. We had smoked them all. I said nothing at all out loud I am sure but immediately after this memory came into my head he said, “Stealing and smoking! Quite enough for a birching: remove your clothes Miss Clark it is time to expand your horizons.”
In ordinary circumstances I would never have complied with his order but I felt helpless: in spite of a considerable embarrassment I began to undress until at last I was naked. The pair of them watched me throughout. When I had undressed he ordered me to kneel in front of the armchair I had been sitting in and lay my chest on the seat so that my bottom was sticking out. The will to resist was missing and I did exactly as he told me.
“Nanny, give her just one stroke please.”
I vaguely heard a swishing sound and suddenly my whole bottom was stinging: I let out a little high pitched “Aah” sound.
“Does that sting Miss Clark? Does it smart?”
Although it was bearable it did indeed sting and smart and I said so. “Now the magic of the birch my dear is the way the sting builds from the easily borne to the agonising. Nanny I need to instruct Miss Clark. Please continue birching her but with long pauses I wish her to able to listen.”
He then proceeded to lecture me on the need to regularly chastise young women and on the efficacy of the birch for this purpose. As he lectured Nanny administered regular strokes of the birch each one drawing from me the same high pitched “Aah” that the first one had. I noticed that the sting grew worse with each swish of the birch and I felt a heat build up that made me wriggle constantly. I must have had a dozen with the birch before he called a halt and asked me how I felt. He was pleased with my description of the stinging and heat and I asked if I might get up.
“Well no my dear; I believe we still have that little matter of the stolen money and the cigarettes to deal with.” To my horror he then started to rub his hand over my bottom. “Yes indeed nicely warmed up but more punishment needed I think. Nanny a dozen delivered quickly I think; that should make her howl.”
The next minute Nanny swished the birch against my bottom and quickly followed it with another. I discovered that Sir John had told the truth, the sting grew rapidly and became unbearable without tears. To my shame I pleaded for mercy but the birch swished on towards the twelve. In the end I was standing with tears running down my cheeks and my finger tips gently touching the fiery furnace that was my poor bottom. I hoped he would now let me get dressed and go home.
“Now I am sure you feel well and truly punished my dear. A hot stinging bottom but nothing to worry about: a few days and all will be well. But now naughty girls don’t just get the birch, isn’t that correct Nanny?”
“Quite right Sir John. They get sent to bed without any supper.”
I was so relieved for I thought they were going to punish my bottom again. “Leave your clothes there Miss Clark it is time for bed.” I was marched up the stairs and from time to time my bottom was smacked either by Nanny or Sir John; each one made me go “Ooh!” The bedroom was lovely with a little fire burning: in those days many houses did not have central heating and I can promise you there is nothing more lovely than going to sleep in a room with a real fire. A beautiful nightdress (did they know what was going to happen in advance?) was laid out on the bed and there was a private bathroom. This was a ‘punishment’ I could cope with!
“I shall give you thirty minutes Miss Clark and then return. I shall expect you to be in bed and ready for me to kiss you goodnight.”
“Kiss you goodnight”; this was turning into a very strange experience. While I prepared for bed my bottom felt extremely hot and stingy, however, the feeling was not awful and I began to feel that I had been fortunate. I knew that they had used birches in Borstals that could strip the skin from one’s bottom. Mine, though sore and covered in tiny welts, was intact and I was sure I would recover in a matter of days. I was almost beginning to enjoy the warmth of my behind when abruptly the door opened. It was Nanny and she was carrying the birch.
Nanny gave me another sunless smile and stood the birch carefully in the corner before leaving. I got into bed quickly and pulled the covers up to my neck. I could not keep my eyes from the birch. When Sir John came in he was clearly ready for bed as he had on pyjamas and a deep red dressing gown. He gave me a rich smile of approval.
“What a lovely picture of innocence you make my dear: so young, so delicate, so naïve: sadly we must all grow up. Time for a little more of the birch I think.”
I am ashamed to report that I became very distressed: I begged him not to punish me any more. I had a nasty feeling that what at the moment was not too bad at all (and possibly becoming strangely pleasant) would swiftly become a torment under punishment.
“My dear young, innocent girl; the birch is not always for punishment although Nanny seems not to know it. I am not going to punish you: I am going to educate you. Now please take off that nightdress and get out of bed.”
Reluctantly I did as I was told and then bent over the end of the bed in obedience to his next instruction. This seemed like punishment to me but as before I seemed to have no resistance in me. Sir John stood behind me without a word and then there came just a little flick of the birch on my bottom. It created a gentle, strangely pleasant little sting: I gave out a soft “Oooh”. He then proceeded to flick my bottom and the tops of my thighs using the birch with a most delicate touch. As he flicked he told me that it was part of my education as a young woman. The existing sting seemed to merge with the new sensation to create an oddly delicious heat. I began to wriggle not in pain but a pleasure-pain; I pushed my bottom out further for him and he laughed quietly. Soon the heat generated began to have the oddest effect on me and I began to be excited in ways I had never experienced before: I seemed to tingle all over and began to have feelings in my tummy that I was sure a single girl should not feel. I realised with shock that I was making a sort of cooing noise.
Sir John stopped using the birch and began to stroke me with his hand; at first it was just my bottom but soon I felt him caress places that I knew he should not be touching. My excitement grew and grew and suddenly I was seized by the most intense sensation I had ever experienced. I was unsure whether it was pain or pleasure and I cried out loud with the fierceness of it. “Time for bed my dear” he said “you don’t need the nightdress.” I obediently got into bed and looked up at Sir John: he was undressing himself and I saw, for the first time, what an aroused man looked like. Sir John joined me in the bed and “completed my education” making me cry out in pleasure several more times before the lesson was over. Finally we were both exhausted and lay satiated in the bed. At that point I heard the chime of midnight and once again a ripple ran across my sight; again everything was distorted and I heard that mischievous and malicious laughter but closer at hand this time.
When my vision cleared I found I was sitting in the chair where I had begun, my drink still in my hand. The fire had gone down considerably but the room was pleasant once again. Sir John was in the chair he had sat in and appeared to be coming out of a deep sleep. I could feel that no birch had touched me nor (and I started to blush) had anything else happened to me. Was it a vision I had or a dream? Perhaps it was some sort of other world experience? Sir John appeared to wake up and began to look around. He blushed before asking “Have I been asleep?”
“I think we have both been asleep Sir John although why I’m not sure.”
He looked very uncomfortable and embarrassed; so much so that I wondered if he had the same “vision” as mine. “My dear it is midnight and you have had no supper. Let us eat quickly and…..I will escort you home. I don’t want you walking out there alone tonight.” Our supper was a rushed affair and I cannot now remember a single thing we ate. As soon as it was over we put on our coats and headed for the front door. Before we left the house I had to ask the question that was burning in my head, “Sir John do you have your old Nanny living here?” He looked at me sharply and gave me such a long inquisitive but also embarrassed look, that I felt sure he must have had a similar “vision” to mine.
“No my dear I do not. She was a nasty, unpleasant woman and I am sorry to tell you that when she died I did not mourn her.”
We started to walk back towards the school and my little house. The night had become colder still but my memory of what had “happened” burned in my mind and kept me warm. I realised that I had enjoyed the experience, whatever it was, and wanted more; or rather wanted it for real. Whether I had really experienced Sir John’s embrace and more, I couldn’t tell, but I wanted his physical closeness so I slipped my arm through his and snuggled in close to him as we walked along. He was very pleased I could tell: as we walked in pleasant closeness I knew that I needed at least some of the experience in the vision but for real and tonight. My desire was growing by the second and as we reached the school I decided that Sir John must be persuaded to come in and stay; I was confident that he would especially if we had shared the vision.
As we reached the front door of my little house I thought I heard mocking laughter riding on the night wind……..but it might have been my imagination.
Note: Susan would love to receive your questions, comments, criticisms and if possible praise. She would also welcome (with no guarantees) requests for stories you would like to see. You are invited to contact her at Susan Thomas.
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