Photo: Nuwest via The Penitents
Amélie had been so excited about the application she had just put in for an exchange year at an English school - Bexhill School for Girls - that she had completely forgotten to bring her homework with her. Since this was the second time it had happened that week, she had been put on report to see the Headmaster after the last lesson of the day.
The Headmaster of the Ajaccio High School in the Corsican capital was not pleased with Amélie. Why, he wondered, would any girl or boy want to forego the delights and advantages of a French education to go to grey, rainy, and miserable England, where Dieu alone knew what kind of educational standards existed? Would they learn the correct version of French history? Would they insist on including English writers, like that incomprehensible Shakespeare, in the literature classes? Worst of all - he almost fainted at the thought - would they give the girls English cookery classes? It didn't bear thinking about. Why, the wretched girl might even come back smattering her conversation dreadful 'English-isms'.
She most certainly deserved a session with his martinet, the leather-tailed whip which had brought fear and discipline to French classrooms for centuries until those idiots in Paris banned it. Thank goodness it was still allowed here on the island of Bonaparte. Ah! Bonaparte! Now what would they tell Amélie about the great national hero? Would they admit that the perfidious British had poisoned him on St Helena?
Amélie knocked at the study door.
"Entrée!" shouted the Headmaster, taking the martinet down from the shelf on which it lived.
As soon as Amélie saw him holding the flogger, her stomach churned. She knew she was for it.
For a couple of minutes, the Headmaster spluttered on about her unreliable homework. He realised that applying for an exchange at a foreign school - even an English one - was hardly a chastisable event, so he made the missing homework sound like the next best thing to a capital offence.
"Bon!" He announced to the bemused girl, "No more discussion!" He placed the traditional black 'punishment block' on the floor.
"Stand on that. If you you move off it, you get extra strokes. Now: skirt up, knickers down! Come on, right down, to your knees! That's right! Now, bend over!"
He took aim. He was doing this, he assured himself, not just for the school, but for toute la France.
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