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Mrs Winchester just could not believe what she saw. Jemima had been told to wait in the Headmistress's study because two prospective parents and their daughter were in the secretary's office. Naturally, the Headmistress had expected Jemima to be standing anxiously in front of the desk, not lounging in an armchair.
Mrs Winchester closed the door, took a Senior cane off the rack, and bent down until her face was almost level with Jemima's.
"I do hope you're sitting comfortably," the Headmistress hissed with heavy sarcasm.
"Not bad, actually, but I think some of the springs need renewing. And whilst you're at it, you might as well get the chair recovered. This material really doesn't go well with the wallpaper."
Mrs Winchester was rarely left speechless, but now she had the utmost difficulty in keeping her voice low and even.
"Jemima, I'm sure you know why you're here. You were sent to Bexhill because you drove the nuns at St Mary's mad with your supercilious attitude. However, you've continued in exactly same manner in the few weeks you've been here. I have had three adverse reports from members of staff, and as I'm sure you know, that merits a mandatory caning."
Jemima paled ever so slightly.
"But Miss, what about those parents outside? They'll hear."
"They will indeed, so I recommend that you don't make too much noise."
Carrying out corporal punishment within earshot of potential parents had caused the school secretary to voice her concerns. "Don't worry, Miss Holloway," the Headmistress had reassured her. "We discuss discipline during the interview. They will be well aware of the sanctions we use in the case of misbehaviour." What the Headmistress had only grasped after the first time she'd tanned a young and attractive backside while some visitors were listening outside was that this could be a real selling point for the father. She had noticed the gleam in his eyes and the bulge in his trousers as the victim walked past him, clutching her behind. Now, Mrs Winchester felt that an audible thrashing had much the same effect as the aroma of freshly-baked bread has when selling a house.
"All right, Jemima. Strip off and bend over the table."
Mrs Winchester didn't normally require the girls to undress beyond baring their bottoms, but in this case she felt that the added indignity would be salutary. She delivered six of her most powerful strokes, leaving dark purple ridges and stripes across both of Jemima's cheeks. Somewhat to her surprise, Jemima took the punishment without a whimper.
"Very well, Jemima," said Mrs Winchester, as she restored the cane to its rack, "you may get dressed again. I hope this has taught you a lesson. Please tell Miss Holloway to send in Sir Miles and Lady Ransome and their daughter."
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