The waiting was the worst. Two whole nerve-racking hours of it. Janet Lacey bit a tremulous lower lip and let her eyes wander around her familiar, simply furnished bedroom. How long to go now? There was no way of telling since the alarm clock was always removed from her bedroom every Friday evening. Just another way of stretching her already taut nerves.
Yes... the waiting was the worst.
No! That’s ridiculous, Janet told herself. Nothing could be worse than actually getting the strap or, even worse than that, the cane. All the same, waiting to hear footfalls on the stairs, waiting to see that door open, then waiting for the decision, had an awfulness all of its own.
Tears came to Janet Lacey’s wide-set, hazel eyes. It was all so unfair. Other girls were not treated like this, she was sure. They weren’t made to work so hard and, certainly, they didn’t have to suffer the consequences of not achieving sufficient during the week. All because her step-father, an ex-professor, was mad about academic achievement. He went on and on about it, saying how important it was and repeatedly emphasising how much she would appreciate it later in life. But would she? Frankly, Janet was of the opinion she had not got that kind of mind. Why should she have? Her stepfather was no blood relation so why should she be gifted with his brains? She would much rather be going out and having some fun like her friends. There was always a disco at the Belle Vue on Friday nights but she never got around to going.
Had an hour passed yet? Maybe an hour and a half had gone by. Janet wanted, in one way, for the time to pass more quickly, but in another way she didn’t. She buoyed herself up momentarily with the hope that she would have pleased Miss Abercrombie that week and there would be no need for any ‘stimulation of the mental processes’, as her step-father habitually put it.
That was another thing. Most girls of 17, like she was, simply went to school and studied for their ‘A’ levels. But not she. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of every week, she had to go for private tuition with Miss Abercrombie, a retired spinster school mistress who lived in a cramped flat about half a mile away. Janet hated that flat for many reasons; not least the fact that it always seemed to smell of stale, boiled greens. On each of those three nights there were two hours of hard mental slog... and all this on top of a day at school. The worst part of all, Janet realised, was that all this extra effort didn’t seem to be doing her much good. Her work didn’t seem to be improving much and she had a horrible feeling she was going to fail her ‘A’s. Janet hated to think what would happen then. It wasn’t her fault though, surely? Either you had brains, or a photographic memory, or you didn’t. Obviously, she didn’t.
Janet Lacey got up and stood before the long mirror on her wardrobe door. I’m grown-up, she told herself; certainly I look it, anyway. All the more humiliating then to have to continue to wear her school uniform when she’s home instead of changing into something more free and easy. Most teenagers did. Only at the weekends was she permitted to dress more sensibly, rather than in her white blouse, pale mauve skirt, white ankle socks and black, buckle shoes. Underneath she wore a pair of thin white cotton knickers (nothing more fancy was permitted) and, of course, in view of her fast-developing figure, a white brassiere.
When I’m 18, I’ll run away, Janet Lacey told herself. However, in her heart, she knew she didn’t mean that. Through a special deed, her stepfather kept control of the money her mother had left her — which was quite considerable — until she was 21. That seemed an absolute age away. Her nerves flared suddenly as she thought she heard the stairs creak; but the sound was not repeated. Miss Abercrombie would have arrived at five thirty to show her stepfather her work, but surely it didn’t take two hours to go through that. What did they do the rest of the time? Probably just chatted about ghastly academic matters. Also, she reckoned, they got stuck into the whisky decanter. That familiar smell was often on her stepfather’s breath but most strongly of all on Friday nights. She found him most unpleasant and was frightened of him. However, she could not afford the luxury of hating him outright for that could well have led to furious arguments, resistance and rebellion which, in view of the power he had over her future finances, would not have paid off. As a matter of fact, Janet often had a sneaking suspicion he was already milking her inheritance and that worried her no end. What hell to go through all this and still end up with next to nothing! Still, what could she do about it. She was cornered... and both of them knew it.
Janet went back and sat on the edge, of her bed again, burying her face in her hands... self-pity welled up in her and tears flowed softly. Oh why didn’t he come upstairs and get it over with?
Gilbert Penfold replaced the decanter on the sideboard, then picked it up again and added another gill or two to his glass. This was going to be a rather special evening and he wanted to be in a nice relaxed mood for it. Topped up, but not over the top. He flipped again through the various test papers Miss Abercrombie had left with him. Unusually, that worthy lady had left about a quarter of an hour previously. This was because Gilbert was expecting another guest and he had thought it best to be discreet. The less people knew about other people’s business the better.
Standing before the fireplace, legs a little astride, Gilbert sipped his whisky reflectively. Young Janet, waiting apprehensively above, was in for a bit of a surprise. He wondered how she would take it. He fingered his short, grey moustache. Balding, white tufts of hair above his rather prominent ears, wearing a pince-nez, formally and neatly dressed, he was almost a caricature of the retired professor. How the public think of them. Many of them, as others know, are extrovert, Bohemian types, slovenly in dress and manner. Not so Gilbert Penfold.
He looked down at the papers in his hand. It could not be said that Janet had done at all well that week. The scholarly part of his mind regretted that, but the rest of it didn’t. She would have to be dealt with quite severely. First, there was a very uninformed essay on the effects of the Enclosure Act, showing clearly she had not boned up on her subject. Secondly, her French translation piece displayed even more errors than usual. Only her English Literature paper was at all satisfactory. Gilbert mused contentedly. He would give the girl a taste of the strap for her History effort and, a little later, she would get the cane for that atrocious French piece. That seemed to be one of Janet’s worst subjects now and she really had to be made to smarten up on it. Only six months away to the exams, after all.
There was a ‘ding-dong’ at the front door and Gilbert went to open it. No Avon lady, he was sure, he thought with a smile. ‘Hello, Sidney,’ he said, seeing the raincoated figure standing there, ‘come on in, you’re nicely on time.’
Sidney, rather gaunt-faced, wearing a trilby hat, having shaken the rain off his umbrella, accepted the invitation. ‘Nasty night,’ he commented.
‘Nastier for some than others,’ replied Gilbert, then immediately regretted it. One mustn’t be facetious in these matters. Perhaps he’d had a few too many Scotches. ‘Do hang up your raincoat, old chap, and come along in. Expect you could do with a livener.’
Pale-faced, rather angular in both appearance and movement, Sidney Cartwright certainly did look in need of some kind of booster. I expect he’s a shade nervous, thought Gilbert. Understandable. ‘Scotch?’ he asked.
‘May I have a sweet sherry,’ replied Sidney. Gilbert managed to keep the look of disdain off his face. He could never understand how people could imbibe such a tipple. However, he poured a schooner to the brim and passed it over.
‘We’ll be going up in about a quarter of an hour,’ said Gilbert Penfold. ‘I think punctuality in these matters is important.’
‘Quite, quite,’ agreed Sidney, sipping away, but, in fact knowing nothing about the matter.
‘Have you decided about your daughter yet, Sidney? Sending her along to Miss Abercrombie, I mean?’
Sidney gave a little apologetic cough. ‘I... I’ll make a firm decision after this evening,’ he said.
‘If your Wendy’s as lazy as you say,’ opined Gilbert, ‘I don’t think you’ll regret it. Fine woman, Miss Abercrombie. Keeps their noses to the grindstone. And, by Jove, some of today’s youngsters need that. Why... in my day...’
‘Yes... yes...’ broke in Sidney hastily, realising his friend was about to mount one of his favourite hobby-horses.
‘You are a genuine believer in corporal punishment, are you not, Sidney?’
‘Yes, of course I am. In moderation.’
‘Naturally, in moderation. This is not the Middle Ages. Still, it’s got to be sufficient to make them buck their ideas up.’ Gilbert paused. ‘You may be interested to know, old chap, that you and I are with the majority. A recent survey amongst parents, in The Times, showed that.’
‘Is that so... well, well!’ Sidney looked genuinely surprised. He took a stiff gulp of his sherry.
‘Just shows you,’ went on Gilbert. ‘The ordinary British chap’s got far more practical sense than your smart do-gooder.’ He glanced at the Ormolu clock on the mantelpiece. ‘About ready then, are we?’
Sidney finished his sherry in one. ‘Are you...’ he began, ‘I mean... is... is... she going to be... to be... well... er... punished tonight?’ His voice sounded a little strangled. Colour was now coming into gaunt cheeks. Sherry or excitement?
‘I’m afraid so,’ replied Gilbert gravely, picking up the test papers off a table. ‘Not a good effort at all, this week.’ He touched Sidney on the arm. ‘I expect she’ll be a little startled to see you with me, old chap,’ he smiled. ‘But don’t worry, I’ll handle it. Just take a pew and watch proceedings. And imagine what a power of good my methods would be for your Wendy!’
Gilbert opened the door and led the way upstairs.
Janet jerked erect on the bed. She was no longer crying and had put on some powder to hide the effects of her earlier tears. No doubt about it this time. He was coming up... oh God, he was coming up! Soon she would know how awful it was going to be; soon it would all be happening. The shame, the shock, the pain. Oh the pain! Her nails bit cruelly into her palms as she backed towards her dressing table.
The door opened and in came the familiar, much-feared figure, wearing one of his tweedy, neat-check suits. Then, to Janet’s horrified amazement, in came another man. For a moment, she had the absurd notion he was an undertaker, dressed in dark grey charcoal and wearing a white shirt. She gave a little cry, hand flying to her mouth.
‘W-what...’ she began.
‘This is Mr Cartwright,’ announced Gilbert formally. ‘You may know his daughter, Wendy.’
Janet’s head reeled. What on earth was going on? ‘Is... is Wendy h-here?’ she asked.
‘No,’ said Sidney Cartwright, ‘she’s probably down at that damned disco, so many of you like to frequent.’
‘Well, then... why...wh-why...’ Janet began again.
Gilbert raised a hand to silence her. ‘Mr Cartwright is considering sending Wendy to Miss Abercrombie’s,’ he said. ‘For special tuition, like you have. I have told him that I think it is a very good idea. I have also suggested he employ the same methods for slack work as I do.’
Janet remained silent. She was trembling. She sensed this horrible newcomer’s eyes roving all over her. ‘But... but why is... is he here... n-now?’ she asked, at length.
‘I should have thought that was perfectly obvious, young lady,’ replied Gilbert in a matter-of-fact tone. ‘He has come to witness the salutary effect of corrective treatment on errant pupils.’ Succinct if a somewhat flowery way of putting it, he thought.
‘You... you d-don’t mean...’
‘I do mean,’ said Gilbert most firmly. ‘Mr Cartwright is here to witness the punishments I am going to hand out for your feeble efforts this week. After that, he will make a decision about Wendy.’
‘Oh no!’ Janet looked distraught. ‘It... it’s not right... you can’t... not in front of... of a stranger... a man. I... I’m grown up now!’
‘You are still a child. Legally a minor. Though you may not look exactly like one. Now, come along, Janet. Let’s have no nonsense. You don’t want to make matters worse for yourself, do you?’
‘Oh please... pl-pleee...eeeasee... make him go...’
‘I have no intention whatsoever of doing that, Janet,’ said Gilbert emphatically. ‘This is a family matter and will not go beyond these four walls. In practically every way it will be like any other Friday evening.’
How can he say that, thought Janet, her mind recoiling in anguish. Didn’t he understand what it was like for a young woman like herself? To have to... to have to go through it all... in front of someone else? It made it doubly, even trebly, worse! ‘This is horrible... m-monstrous!’ she gasped.
‘Don’t be so absurd, Janet,’ snapped Gilbert. ‘This sort of thing used to happen every day in Victorian households. And they brought up the finest generation this nation has ever seen.’ He picked up the papers. ‘We’ll begin with the piece about the Enclosure Act,’ he said briskly. ‘Very short on facts. You didn’t read your subject up properly. For that you are going to get the strap. Six.’
‘Oh no... please... not before...’
‘Six,’ repeated Gilbert. ‘On the bare!’
Janet shrieked and covered her face with her hands again. ‘No.... no....ooo NOT ON THE BARE!’
‘You are behaving very foolishly, Janet...’
‘Not... not on the b-bare... not in front... in front of him... ohhh... please...’
Gilbert Penfold stroked his moustache. It was an irritating habit he had when coming to a decision. ‘Very well, Janet,’ he said evenly. ‘I accept, at your age, you have a certain natural... shall I say... modesty. On that account, I shall offer you an alternative. You can either have six on the bare or twelve over your knickers.’
There was an anguished gasp from Janet. Mr Cartwright’s long, bony fingers were twisting themselves together; his close-set grey-blue eyes had an intent, fearful-yet-excited look about them. His throat was dry, his heart pounding. He had been thinking about this moment for days; now he found himself almost aghast that it was actually happening. He was going to see a seventeen-year-old schoolgirl getting the strap across her bottom. Something he had secretly dreamed about for longer than he cared to admit.
Janet was shuddering, eyes filled with tears, mouth loose. What could she do; how could she escape? There was no way.... under her particular circumstances. ‘A-alright... alright then... twelve...twelve over my knickers then, Dad...’ Gilbert had always insisted she call him Dad, though it was quite ridiculous really. He was old enough to be her Grandad.
‘That is your final decision?’
‘Y-yes... yes... D-Dad...’ Janet was half sobbing. Oh how terrible it all was! Far worse than usual. She could not bring herself even to look at that horrible Mr Cartwright.
‘You deserve them Janet,’ said Gilbert pontifically. ‘Your History paper was quite abominable. I’ll have Miss Abercrombie repeat it next week. I hope, for your sake, you do a great deal better.’
‘Yes... yes... try... I... I’ll try... I will... I will...’
Gilbert Penfold turned to his agitated, but fascinated, guest. ‘Janet is always strapped lying face down on the bed,’ he stated. ‘She simply has a pillow put under her flanks to give her bottom a little uplift. You, naturally, may have different ideas when dealing with Wendy.’
Sidney Cartwright could only nod, making a small choking sound in his throat. ‘D-Dad... oh Dad... can’t we... we be a-alone,’ Janet was half sobbing. But these natural pleas were ignored.
‘Lie face down on the bed, Janet,’ ordered Gilbert crisply, ‘and pull your skirt up high.’ He tossed down a pillow on to the centre of the bed. Then, seeming not satisfied, he placed another pillow on top of it. ‘Come along... come along... we haven’t got all night!’
Sidney, now showing beads of sweat on his suety white forehead, suddenly wished they had. Still, he mustn’t be greedy. This was an experience he had never imagined would come his way. But it had. He must be grateful.
Slowly, most reluctantly, Janet hoisted her skirt, then quickly fell on to the cushions. ‘Higher than that... right up,’ ordered Gilbert at once, for the skirt still covered half of an amply swelling bottom. Sobbing, Janet tugged the skirt up to her waist and then clawed her nails into the pillow at the head of the bed. Oh the utter shame of it! That beast was looking at her!
Indeed Sidney was. His eyes had a brightness about them as they gazed upon two curving mounds so thinly covered, by a pair of white cotton knickers. She might almost as well be naked, he thought. Certainly those knickers would offer no protection.
‘Twelve then,’ said Gilbert. He opened the drawer of Janet’s dressing table and took out a dark leather strap about 18 inches long and an inch and a half wide. It was about as thick as an average belt. Not too severe an instrument, but it stung adequately. He laid it lightly over Janet’s uplifted bottom and saw the buttocks give a sudden clench of dread. He always enjoyed that.
Up went the strap... and down. Hard, but too hard. It whacked across Janet’s left buttock cheek and a strangled gasp came from her as her bottom pounded up and down, setting the soft flesh juddering. Gilbert allowed the full effect of the first stroke to be absorbed then brought the strap down on Janet’s right buttock cheek... getting a very similar reaction. Two pink welts had appeared. They could be seen under the thinness of the knickers but of course, more brightly on the bare flesh not covered by those knickers.
Sidney, looking on avidly, felt the blood pounding in his temples. His throat was dry. He still couldn’t quite believe he was watching a 17-year-old getting strapped. But he was!
Wwwwhaaacckkk! Back to the left buttock cheek. Janet’s bottom bounced again and she half twisted over. Then back she went. Wwhhaacckkk! This time the right buttock cheek got it again.
‘Ow...owww...oh Dad... please... not so h-hard...’
Wwwhhaaccckkk! Gilbert gave it to his step-daughter just as hard as before. The girl deserved to be punished for her slackness. Wwhhaaaccckkk! The sixth stroke fell, mainly on bare flesh, just where Janet’s right cheek joined the top of her thigh. She let out an anguished yelp and one hand flew back to the stripe just raised.
‘Hand away,’ said Gilbert sternly, ‘you know that’s not allowed.’
‘Please... please, Dad... no more...isn’t that enough... please... please’
‘If you had been a sensible girl and taken your knickers down as I told you that would be enough,’ said Gilbert a shade smugly. ‘As it is, there are still six more to come.’
‘Ooooh... noo...ooo!’ The knowledge that that horrible stranger was looking on at her humiliation flooded back in on her. He was the reason she hadn’t taken her knickers down. It was his fault she was getting six more. Oh how she hated him!
Gilbert Penfold could be seen fiddling with his moustache again; his rosy cheeks were now even rosier. There was a long pause. Janet’s bottom flesh kept flinching in anticipation. Sidney found it a quite delightful spectacle. ‘I’ll give you another option, Janet,’ said Gilbert at length. ‘Take your knickers down now and I’ll give you only three more.’
Oh what a temptation! Janet was instantly torn between modesty and an intense desire to avoid more pain than necessary. Oh, if only he weren’t there, it wouldn’t be so bad. How could Wendy’s Dad be such a beast? Sidney’s blood was pounding more fiercely at the prospects opening up. He clasped his hands over the front of his trousers. Things were beginning to happen there.
‘Well? Hurry up... make up your mind. Six or three?’
Janet literally cried out in her anguish then, with a sudden, compulsive movement, pushed her thin knickers down to the tops of her thighs. ‘Alright... alright... oh this... this is a-awful...’ Sidney gazed lecherously upon lush girlish flesh, seeing the little tufts of down between the cleft. He could, needless to say, well appreciate the girl’s embarrassment. Still, this was Gilbert’s way. Doubtless he considered making his stepdaughter demean herself in this fashion was all part of her punishment. So be it.
‘Sensible girl,’ said Gilbert and laid the strap hard and full across Janet’s bare bottom, this time covering both cheeks.
There was a gasping shriek and the girl squirmed and kicked frantically. She was still squirming when Gilbert laid on the next stroke, causing Janet to twist right over, hands clasping most urgently to her burning bottom. Sidney was favoured with some aspects of young feminine charms he had not expected to see that evening.
‘One more,’ said Gilbert, with a calmness he was not exactly feeling.
Groaning, Janet half twisted back over, making three quarters of her candy-pink striped bottom available... and Gilbert gave her the hardest stroke of all.
‘Ye-eeghh....owwww... owww.... aaaahhh....’ cried Janet breathlessly, threshing from side to side on the bed, hands pressing and pressing yet again in a vain attempt to ease the pain. Then she pulled up her knickers and lay face down on the bed, sobbing quietly. Gilbert returned the strap to its place.
‘Don’t imagine I have finished with you yet, this evening,’ he said. ‘There is still the matter of your appalling French translation.’
‘Oh God... no more... no more... you c-couldn’t...’ Janet’s head was pulled up and twisted back, her tear-filled eyes beseeching.
‘Would you like to step downstairs for a little refreshment, Mr Cartwright,’ Gilbert was saying politely. ‘We must give the young culprit a little time to recover.’
‘Yes... yes... very well,’ replied Sidney, his voice thick. As he rose from his chair, he kept his hands crossed over the front of his trousers. There was now even more reason to do so!
Gilbert poured himself another Scotch, Sidney stuck to sweet sherry. He had no head for drinks and wondered if his decision was wise.
‘She... Janet... is... well, quite tough for a girl, isn’t she?’ he managed to say.
‘She’s tougher now than she used to be,’ replied Gilbert. ‘It’s a matter of acquiring experience.’
‘Are you really going to punish her again?’ Sidney sounded almost nervous. Perhaps it was his intense excitement. There was a faint buzzing noise in his head. Everything was still a little unreal.
‘Of course, I am,’ Gilbert was saying. ‘And I warrant the next time she does a French translation, there’ll be at least a sixty per cent improvement!’
‘Maybe you’re right.’ He was thinking about his daughter Wendy. This certainly would be an excellent way of improving her school performance and general behaviour. He wondered if his wife Gwen would raise any objections and thought not. Often enough she had remarked: ‘That young Miss deserves a good hiding’.
Sidney realised he had polished off the sherry at great speed. ‘No...no thank you,’ he said quickly. The buzzing noise had increased — even if the pressure on his flies had diminished.
‘We’ll give her another ten minutes,’ stated Gilbert. ‘There’s never anything lost by keeping them waiting.’
Though Janet’s eyes were red with tears, her cheeks were white with dread. Gilbert closed the door and motioned Sidney back to his chair. ‘You are going to be punished for some of the worst French translation I have ever set eyes upon,’ announced Gilbert in his best professional manner.
‘N-not tonight... please... can’t you do it tomorrow... please, Dad... I...I’m so s-sore...’ She glanced at Sidney and her cheeks coloured a little with embarrassment.
‘No, it can’t wait,’ said Gilbert sternly. ‘You are going to be caned. Six strokes.’
‘O-ohhh... no...ooo... Dad... n-not the cane... not after what you’ve just d- done...’
‘It will be all the more beneficial,’ answered Gilbert smugly.
‘Oohh please... not tonight...’
‘The same rules apply,’ went on Gilbert, ignoring the interruption. ‘Six on the bare... or twelve over your knickers.’
‘Oh no... NO...OOO!’ The thought of twelve made Janet’s brain reel. Yet she was aware, in view of the way canings were administered she would, with her knickers down, be most immodestly displayed. It was a quite hideous decision. Slowly her cheeks began to colour scarlet. She couldn’t stand twelve, so it would have to be the shaming horror of exposure.
‘Canings are given in the old-fashioned way,’ Gilbert was explaining to Sidney. ‘With the culprit bending over, touching her toes.’
‘R-really...’ gulped Sidney. His pallid cheeks were beginning to colour, too, but for different reasons.
‘Well?’ demanded Gilbert, ‘have you made up your mind, Janet?’
‘P-please... I couldn’t st-stand twelve... but p-please...’
‘Take your knickers down then girl. Right down to your ankles. And be quick about it. The sooner we start, the sooner it’ll be over.’ He strolled over to the drawer where the strap was kept, opened it, and took out a slim, whippy willow cane. Again, it was not a very severe implement, but quite sufficiently painful.
‘Oh...ohhh... this is... is s-so... aw-awful..’ Janet was wailing. All the same, she was pushing her knickers down, hands up under her skirt. They slid down her thighs, then over her calves, to her ankles. She was facing Sidney Cartwright but kept her eyes averted. Shame was like a brand going through her middle.
‘Turn around,’ ordered Gilbert, tapping the cane on his palm. Janet turned halfway round. ‘Right round,’ insisted her step-father. With a sobbing moan Janet completed the turn. ‘Now bend over and touch your toes, young lady,’ said Gilbert. Moaning more loudly, Janet obeyed... and then felt her skirt pulled right up high. She was naked from waist to ankles... and most, most immodestly exposed to lecherous eyes. Sidney, licking wet lips, had replaced his clasped hands over his flies. This was all quite incredible! And quite incredibly exciting!
Tap... tap... tap... went the slim cane on a pink, flinching bottom... a bottom now more fulsomely curved than previously. A most splendid sight to behold!
The first stroke fell across the top of both cheeks raising a tiny, pink-red tramline — one more vivid at its end than its beginning.
Janet jerked up at once, bottom squirming left and right. She clamped her hand to the thin weal. ‘Oh that hurt...’ she whimpered.
‘Naturally,’ said Gilbert. ‘Now bend over again...’
Janet bent, the bottom curved and seemed to swell, the cleft widening. She got her second.
And, once again, she jerked up, squirming and gasping with the thin-biting pain of it. But, almost worse than that pain, was the knowledge of her constant immodest exposure.
Unhurriedly, making Janet bend over each time, keeping her legs straight, Gilbert Penfold completed the six-stroke caning. One could not exactly have called it a savage punishment but it was one that was to be etched into the girl’s memory for many a month. There were, after all, rather special circumstances, were there not?
‘Well, Sidney, now that you’ve made your... your inspection, should I say... what do you think?’ enquired Gilbert a little later, once more down in the sitting room. Janet, he knew, would remain in her bedroom diligently covering her tender bottom with cold cream.
‘I... I was most impressed,’ replied Sidney. His nerves were still tingling. Wisely, he had declined a third sweet sherry.
‘Yes, there’s nothing like it for stimulating them to extra effort, in my opinion,’ said Gilbert sagely. ‘So, do you think you’ll introduce your Wendy to the same sort of treatment?’
‘I think I very well might. Indeed, I almost certainly will. Just a question of having a word with Gwen, you understand?’
‘Ah yes... of course... of course. Shouldn’t have any trouble there. She seems a very practical woman.’
‘Oh she is... she is...’ agreed Sidney Cartwright. Not only practical, he reflected, but downright domineering on occasions. ‘Er... I’ll be getting along then.’
‘Just one moment, old chap,’ said Gilbert raising a hand. ‘If you do decide the right way about Wendy; I would like you to bear something in mind. This is for a little later on, you understand?’
‘What’s that, then?’
‘Let me put it this way. It is not always possible to take a dispassionate — or objective — view about one’s nearest and dearest. One’s stepdaughter. Even more so, one’s own daughter. There will come times, I am sure, when we shall be able to help each other out.’
‘Er... you mean... you mean...’ began Sidney, looking bewildered.
‘I mean, Sidney’ replied Gilbert firmly, ‘there may be appropriate times when it would be better for my Janet to be sent round to you for punishment. And, of course, your Wendy sent round to me. You see what I mean about objectivity now?’
Sidney’s gaunt face broke into a thin smile. ‘Oh yes, Gilbert, I do. Indeed I do!’
The vision of Janet’s quivering pink bottom was still hot in his mind. It would, he thought with a surge of inner heat, be an infinite pleasure to deal with it personally.
‘Goodnight then, Sidney. I think we understand each other now.’
‘Oh yes, I’m sure we do. Goodnight, Gilbert. And thanks.’
‘It’s been a pleasure,’ smiled Gilbert Penfold.
And he meant it.