I'd gone to the classroom early to prepare the blackboard before the lesson. Immediately I walked in, I knew that something was up: three girls were clustered around my desk, giggling. As soon as they saw me, they shot bolt upright, looking guilty.
"OK, what's up, girls?" I asked in a smiling, friendly way. All I got in response was some shuffling and nervous glances. I looked around my desk, but at first nothing seemed amiss. Then I saw it: a large, shiny drawing pin placed on the seat of my chair.
"All right - which of you put it there?" I demanded. More fidgeting but no answers. The wretched girls have this code of ethics that rivals the mafia's omerta rules: they will never, ever tell on each other. I suppose it's noble, but it's very frustrating when you're trying to uncover the culprit.
"One more chance," I frowned at them, "which of you put that pin there?" Total silence.
I went over the cupboard and fetched the classroom cane - it's thin and whippy and attracted nervous looks as I walked back, swishing it.
"Last chance." I tried to look each of them in the eye, but they were all studying their shoes. No one spoke.
"All right, bend over my desk, all three of you. Skirts up."
The desk is wide. They lined up along it, lifted up their skirts, and slowly bent over, their fingers grasping the far edge of the wooden surface.
I gave each of them three sharp whacks over their regulation cotton briefs. Every stroke produced a yelp of pain.
"Stand up, face me." They got up and turned around, clutching their bottoms. Three sets of tear-filled eyes looked at me. I flexed the cane in what I hoped was a threatening manner.
"Who put that pin on my chair?" It came out as a kind of hiss. No response, except a couple of sniffs.
Well, I can't back down now without losing face, and that would be unconscionable. There's not much choice. I'll have to tell them to get back over the desk, knickers down this time, and give each of them three more really fierce strokes on the bare.
They're going to have to learn that loyalty sometimes has it's price, a rather painful price.