From Roué 12
As promised, a letter to keep you up to date on my progress since I resigned my commission. First a few questions for your next letter The Times reports plenty of action ‘up country’ against the Punjabis. I hope you have had your chance to do something in that respect. I shall look through the Gazette every month in hopes of finding that you have won yourself a medal, or at the very least have been ‘mentioned in dispatches’. How is Rodney? Tell him that I’ve bought the most splendid pair of ponies, and will be playing for the Windsor Club this season. I hope Allison is well, and the boys. Do let me know. I trust you are still whipping that young ayah’s bottom on every possible occasion. The recollection of the caning you gave her when she let Billy go off on that pony still stands me in good stead whenever I’m at a loss for something interesting to think about. India seems so far away now, and the Army. You really must throw it all up if the Colonel will let you go, and come and join me here in England.
As I said in my last letter, all my back pay (and most of Uncle Henry’s inheritance) has gone into that little investment I told you about. As you will see from the address I am now living at the school. The Cotswolds are beautiful just now. The two old dears from whom I bought the school have decided to stay on after all. They’ve nowhere else to go I suppose. Anyway, they are quite useful. I’ve been able to dispense with the services of one of the mistresses, which leaves a little more profit, though it is still slender enough.
The old ladies were a little surprised that I would be teaching and were more than a little surprised that I insisted that the birch should he introduced, or rather reintroduced, since it was in use here until about ten years ago, so I am told. I should say that the surprise of which I speak had more to do with possible repercussions from the educational reformists than anything else. They didn’t seem at all dismayed when I expressed my intention of applying the instrument of correction to the girls’ bottoms myself. Indeed they themselves have taken to its use once more, presumably on the grounds that, since I am now proprietor of the establishment, I shall be called on to account for the disciplinary methods now employed. Incidentally the old dears have proved to be a more interesting source of information. Do you remember the wife of that Artillery Major who came with us on the expedition to Ranjitpore? Abigail something? Well anyway, he, the Major, was the son of the Bishop of Chichester — and the old dears have said they remember very well a former pupil, also named Abigail, who married the Bishop’s son some twelve years ago. So it must be the same girl, don’t you think? Isn’t it fascinating to think of the Major’s lady having her bottom whipped here in this very school. I should love to see her face should you dare mention it to her.
Anyway, I am now teaching Geography, mostly India and a little North Africa, along with Latin, of which I remember something, and Mathematics, of which I recall very little. I have seen to it that there is a birch rod prominently displayed in every classroom; of which we have only three, in truth — and am determined to whip my way through every pair of buttocks in the school before Christmas. The girls are much afraid of me, needless to say. I was never ‘sir-ed’ so much even in the Army.
I wonder if you would approve of the way in which I deal with my young charges? We have several seventeen-year-olds by the way, one of whom is a particularly pretty girl. I make a point of having the girls come to me in one of the classrooms, and have found that I prefer to have them naked, for the most part. Their bottoms bounce and wriggle, I can tell you, once they’ve had a couple from the birch. I think I remember you telling me that you had never tried the birch. I can assure you that it has a most salutary effect on young ladies, and indeed a most enervating effect on the administrator of the whipping. I am afraid that I could not convey the scene adequately with words alone, but I have executed a couple of my pastel sketches to give you an idea of the fun I’m having.
The man in both pictures is intended to be me. I look quite the part of the stern schoolmaster, don’t you think? The girl is Erica — the seventeen-year-old I mentioned earlier — and this is my, admittedly subjective, recollection of the way it would have appeared to an observer, of which I have none, by the way, on these occasions, although you would not be deprived of the pleasure were you to visit us here at some time in the future.
I hope I have managed to stir a pang of jealousy in you, which you richly deserve for not having permitted me to lay a cane across your children’s nurse’s delectable buttocks. It really was most selfish of you — you are not yet forgiven.
I trust that you may be kept safe from bullets should you be sent ‘up country’, and safe also from the Colonel’s wrath should you contrive to fall off your pony again in the Cup matches this year. Meanwhile I shall score in every match I play for Windsor, and will pass my time otherwise reddening young ladies’ bottoms.
My very best wishes, and hopes that you will get some home leave soon,
If we’re going to have a nineteenth-century schoolroom we might as well have a gloomy one, for atmosphere, with a single ray of sunlight to illuminate the gaunt lines of the desk over which our wayward pupil is going to be arranged for her whipping. We might also choose to have the master as severely-countenanced as possible, the girl as frightened as possible, and her palely-quivering buttocks quite naked in anticipation of the birching. Taking these as our ingredients we have a scene which is both pointedly devised for the sound thrashing of the wretch’s bottom, and at the same time endowed with considerable mystery as to the circumstances which might require a young lady to undress so completely in front of her schoolmaster. All that is evident is that the master is a man in a position such that he can insist upon absolute humiliation for the girl, prior to the application of a birch to her obediently-bared bottom, and all this without, presumably, any risk of interruption. No wonder that imagination may run a little wild in search of more clues as to the nature of this desirable situation.