Just when you thought you'd seen everything, one of these blasted girls produces a new jape. There we were, halfway through Latin irregular verbs, when Joan lets out a shriek loud enough to raise the hair on a cat's back a mile away.
"What is it?" I snapped at her, as the rest of the class tried to gather their wits.
"It was her," said Joan, white as a sheet.
"Who?" I demanded.
"Over there, sir, by the door. Fannie the Phantom Blonde. I saw her, sir, really I did." The class had recovered themselves and there was the odd titter. This was an obvious attempt to disrupt things by raising the silly school legend that Bexhill is haunted by the ghost of a girl with long, straggly blonde hair and a sleeveless dress. They've even made up a story that she was accidentally caned to death long ago by an over-zealous headmaster. Now, they say, she roams the studies and common-rooms to make sure no-one else suffers the same fate. Absolute humbug and I won't tolerate my Latin lessons being interrupted with such nonsense. I ordered Joan to leave the class and go and wait in the teachers' common room. Then I set the rest of the girls some construe, took down the cane, and went to find her.
She was completely unrepentant, still blubbering on about having seen this imaginary spectre. I decided to deal with her firmly, to dissuade anyone else from trying to follow her example and play tricks in my classroom. I told her to lie on the table and pull her panties down. I lifted her skirt and gave her six good whacks, and I'm sure all the rest of the girls could hear her yells as each stripe stretched across her bottom.
"Well," I said, "do you still claim you saw a ghost?"
"Yes sir, I did, she was standing there with her hands clasped in front on her."
The impudence! That got her six more stripes.
"Admit it, you were just trying to disrupt the lesson."
"No sir. She was there, honestly."
"Then here come another six, and after that, there'll be another six, and then yet another six if necessary, until you stop seeing things that don't exist. Or until Fannie the Phantom tells me to stop, ha, ha, ha! Now, get your hands out of the way."
Photo credit: The Penitents