Cheats Never Prosper

Caught cheating on a chemistry examination, a young man is deeply touched by the enduring power of his parent’s love as it transcends the agonizing yet fleeting pain of a severe caning.

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I was a day pupil at a nearby private school. I was having some difficulty in settling down and catching up with the other boys in some subjects. There was a lot of pressure, even in those days and I wanted to do well. The stupid thing is that I performed well above average in most subjects, just seemed to have a blank when it came to chemistry. The thing I am trying, right now, to avoid writing down, is the fact that I cheated – and I was caught.

I was taken to the Master for my year, and burst into tears before he said anything. On reflection, he was actually very good in the way he handled the situation. He explored my difficulties with the subject before telling me that he would not punish me but would be speaking to my father and leaving it for him to deal with. I was terrified at the thought of the consequences of such an action. Cheating was near the top of his list of House Rules by which we lived.

Walking home was a painful journey. As soon as my mother saw me, she knew something was wrong. Mr. Mitchell had obviously phoned my father at his office, rather than phone home. Mum asked me what was wrong and I just burst into tears. She calmed me down and finally got the story out of me. She didn’t pretend that everything would be fine, or that I didn’t need to worry. She simply said, “You know our views on things like cheating, and you are right to expect your father to be very cross with you. I am sure that he will be firm, but I know he will also be fair – even if it doesn’t look that way to you at first. I suggest that you go up to your room and sit quietly. I will bring you a hot drink shortly.”

The pain of that waiting time was awful and Mum’s drink did nothing to relieve it.

At the sound of Father’s car arriving I actually thought I was going to be sick.

I heard him come in and I could hear him talking with Mum, but I couldn’t hear what was being said. I then heard him come upstairs and I felt my body tense. But instead of coming to me, I heard him go into his own room. Then, about five minutes later, there was a knock at my door and Father came in. To my surprise, he was wearing casual trousers and an open-necked shirt. (It’s amazing how vivid that picture is today)

He came over, sat on my bed, took hold of my hand and said, in a quite soft and calm voice, “Raymond, I think we need to have a serious chat, and I want you to come down to my study” and with that, he got up and walked out.

This all seemed wrong. In my mind, Dad would come in without knocking and shout – You – My Study – NOW – I was totally unprepared for his calm and relaxed approach (but it was a powerful lesson for later in my life) and it even calmed me a bit as I made my way downstairs.

I knocked on the study door, heard my father say, “Come in” and went inside. My father’s study was his very private space. The bookshelves were filled with rather boring looking books. There were always neat piles of papers on his desk, and a lot of floor and wall space was occupied with pictures and souvenirs of his travels. There was a permanent smell of the smoke from his pipe and, apart from his desk lamp and the reading lamp beside his big leather armchair, it was rather gloomy.

When I went in, Father was in his chair and he invited me to sit on a stool beside him, which I did. When Father spoke, it was still with that calm clear voice that he had used earlier. “I have had a conversation with Mr. Mitchell, who suggests that you tried to cheat in your chemistry class test. Is this true?” I admitted that it was. “Thank you for your honesty, but what on earth induced you to set aside one of our most important family rules?” I tried to explain, but nothing came out properly and I just finished up in a mess of tears.

Father waited until I had settled and then said “Believe me Raymond, I totally understand the pressures you were facing. I am only sorry that you felt unable to talk about them with me or your mother, and we will discuss that another time. I also recognize your contrite expressions of regret, which will need to reach other people. However, I am sure that you must recognize that an offence of this nature cannot be resolved by saying ‘Sorry’, however sincerely it may be said. I am equally sure that you know that you will be punished for what you have done; Punished with appropriate severity. I now want you to go to your room, undress completely and put your bathrobe on. I then want you to sit down and quietly think over what you have done. I also want you to remember what we have told you before about any punishment we give you – it isn’t just some duty we perform, it is actually a measure of how much we care for you and your future life. It is never an easy task for a loving parent and yet, in some ways, it is one of the greatest displays of that love. Yes, the punishment may hurt. And yes, you may cry. Just remember, the pain and the tears will go away, but the love of your parents, and the family, will always be with you. Now off you go.”

My Father’s closing words had pierced my heart and, by the time I reached my room, I was in floods of tears. I did as my Father had told me and sat in my chair to consider both what I had done and what was to come. It was clear that the punishment, whatever form it took, was going to be severe. I resolved to take it to the best of my ability.

It must have been nearly an hour before there was a knock at the door and my mother told me to go down to the study.

My Father met me in the corridor and said, “Just a word before we go in Raymond. This offence is so serious that I have decided that your punishment will be witnessed by those most directly affected. Your mother will be there, obviously, and I have invited Mr. Mitchell and Professor Klemper (the Headmaster). The girls (these were Grace and Tania who lived with us, and over whom Father had parental control) will also be present, in order that they may learn from your discomfort. Remember what I said earlier and listen to what I say later. Hold your head up and be brave.” He opened the door and we went in.

Father took me over to the area in front of the fire, turned me to face the others and stood beside me. Mother stood in the centre of the group, with the girls either side of her. The Headmaster and my Year Master were at either end. Father addressed the gathering.

“Yesterday, Mr. Mitchell informed me that one of his boys had been caught in the act of cheating in one of his class tests. Furthermore, that boy was my son. I have already spoken to him about this, but I will ask him again and in your presence; Raymond, you have heard the accusation. Is it true that you cheated in the test?” I tried to speak clearly, and replied, “Yes Father”. He continued, “You are all aware that in this family we have a set of clear house rules, with equally clear penalties for their infringement. Truth and honesty feature highly in those rules and yet Raymond has set them aside in order to deal with his personal problems. I am saddened by his decision, but I accept that it is my responsibility not only to punish him, but to guide him on to a better path for the future. I ask you all to bear witness that his punishment is given firmly and fairly. Raymond, you will receive eight strokes of the cane” This last announcement prompted a gasp, not only from me, but very clearly from both of the girls. Eight strokes was, for me, a huge penalty. I had once had six from my mother, but they were more playful than disciplinary.

Father took me to the centre and turned me to face the fireplace, which placed my back towards the witnesses. Father next placed the stool in front of me, before adjusting his reading lamp to shine directly on me and turning off the other lights in the room. He then removed my bathrobe and I heard a little gasp from one of the girls when she saw that I was naked. Father said, “You will now bend over, grasp the seat of the stool firmly and retain your grip throughout. Now hold your position.”

I could not see the actual cane, but I heard the swish as Father flexed it through the air – and that was scary enough. Father said, “The first stroke is for your mother who, like me, is greatly disappointed by your conduct.” This time the swishing sound was followed by the sound of the cane hitting my bottom and my experiencing a searing pain across the centre of both cheeks. I gasped and tightened my grip on the stool.

“The next is for Grace and Tania, who live with us as part of our family and who treat you as a brother. I hope this will encourage them to avoid the temptation to copy your behavior.” The blow, when it came was slightly above the first. It might have been slightly lighter than the first stroke, but the pain was just as severe.

“The next is for your Headmaster, in token of your abuse of the principles upon which his school is founded.” The blow landed lower down, near the tender area just above the thighs. The burning pain made me cry out and I felt the tears in my eyes.

“The next is for Mr. Mitchell, who has cared for you since you joined the school. It is a token of regret for the way you have repaid his kindness.” This time, the cut was just above the previous one. It was agonizing, and took me to the threshold of my tolerance. Through the pain, I called out “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“The next is for your classmates, who offered you their companionship and were given your cheating in return.” The cane came down very close to one of the earlier strokes. The effect on the already tender area was awful and I begged for mercy, but my father simply told me, in that strangely calm voice, “Hold hard son and stay steady.” They were curious words to me, but they also had a curious effect. It felt as though Dad was somehow proud of the way I was taking my punishment and wanted to give me strength. However, I was not sure about my endurance for three more strokes.

“The next is for your wider family as a token of contrition for the shame you have brought upon the family name.” The blow must have struck in the one small space left between the others, and my entire bum felt as though it was on fire. I screamed and I shouted out ,”Please forgive me Father. I will never do it again. Please stop. I can’t take any more”

“The last two are for me, to recognize the shame I feel as your father. I am determined that the pride I have felt for you in so many other ways shall not be lost in this one act of stupidity. We shall work together to ensure that does not happen. I assure you that the intensity of the pain you feel now is nothing compared to the intensity of the love that your mother and I have for you. Now keep your grip.” Father moved to stand at my head and delivered the final and hardest cuts of all. They came quickly, one to each bum cheek, cutting vertically across all the previous strokes. The result was an excruciating pain which burned deep into my body and caused me to scream incoherently. I knew what I wanted to say, but I was beyond proper speech.

Father told me to stand, which I did with difficulty. He put my robe back on and told me to turn around. My mother came forward, with tears in her eyes, put her arms around me and whispered, “I love you.” Next came the girls, who were both quietly crying, and each gave me a hug and a kiss. Professor Klemper came forward and shook my hand, saying, “You paid your dues like a man, and in the best traditions of the school.” Mr. Mitchell took my hand in both of his and said, “I have never seen a punishment given and received with such sincerity and devotion. Finally my father turned to me and, in front of everyone, took me in his arms and held me close as he said, “Raymond, this has been a great trial for both of us. Please believe me when I say that I drew strength to play my part from the way you played yours. I know that it will have a great benefit for us and our relationship. I love you son.”

Not surprisingly, on hearing his words, I became a sobbing wreck in his arms and he held me tighter than I had ever previously experienced, as everyone else made a discreet exit – leaving Father and Son in a very significant embrace.

You are welcome to contact the author Sunray.

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