(Posted in response to An Unreformed Reformatory Girl by Eliane)
Report to the Board of Trustees
It is my duty, kind sirs, to report to you my further endeavours in taking the wayward lasses placed in my care and restoring them to their place in society.
May I be permitted to relate a recent series of events involving a particularly headstrong girl. I fear that we may not have seen the last of her, by a long measure.
The young “lady” in question had been a mere two weeks in our care, and had already required some admonishment at the hands of my junior staff, when her behaviour necessitated my attentions. On arriving at my office, I was greeted by her insolence before I even had opportunity to enter. The girl was lounging against the locked door in a totally dissolute manner. Even before she had spoken, and despite her tender years, she conveyed all of the lewd and louche manner of a criminal woman of the night.
I have a certain sympathy for those respectable young girls who may find themselves indulging in carnal activities in return for a fair reward. Such girls, typically, are supporting an indigent parent, helping to clothe a myriad of younger siblings or provide fuel to preserve a grandparent from the rigours of a bad winter. Whilst our spiritual directors are correct to counsel us as to the improprietary of their actions, I cannot but feel a little symathy for their plight, uneducated as they often are, even in the simple tasks of domestic service. Such girls will, inevitably, be drawn to utilise their animal instincts to survive. To that extent, they deserve our compassion.
But this girl was not one such. By her manner, I could tell that any man consorting with her would be set upon by footpads and relieved of all his valuables this, probably, without even enjoying the proffered benefits.
As I approached, she confirmed my first impression by greeting me in a most disrespectul manner. Many ne're-do-wells have passed through our hands in the years I have had the honour to manage this institution on your behalf. In that time, I do not believe I have ever encountered one who, at such tender years, believed she could display such truculent insolence in the presence of the nominated representative of your good selves, the Trustees who have devoted their time and monies to the improvement of the lot of these fallen women.
I felt obliged to remind the lass how lucky she was to benefit from our current liberated and compassionate regimen. In the not too distant past, I told her, she would not have been permitted her first supper of dry bread, water and a little oaten pottage, before being introduced to the house diciplinary methods. This introduction would be afforded to all arrivals, even those showing the most timid compliance and contrite apologetic behaviour.
In those days, the new girl would be stripped of her vermin infested garments, including those most personal to her body, which often showed the greatest levels of infestation. She would be aggressively cleansed with cold water and coarse brushes. Whilst her skin was still flushed from both her embarassment and these rough ministrations, she would be introduced to the “house birch”. Repeatedly, the bundle of supple twigs would thrash against her stinging buttocks, her chastiser all the while, recounting the misdemeanours that would lead to its reapplication during her stay in our company. Such inductions were always popular with staff and inmates alike, an opportunity to meet the “new girl” and to witness any notions of superiority being beaten out of her. I explained that this satisfied the naturally assertive desires of both the staff and those more established girls who felt they could demand the respect of the junior girls.
I was none too pleased to note that this “lady” obviously paid little attention to my explanations and felt herself above all such warning words. She was going to require a considerable amount of my personal attention, and I decided to start with a suitably domestic implement. Telling her to remove her skirts, I fetched a leather soled slipper from its appointed resting place. Even before I started, I recognised that this chastisee was going to require containment. Standing her at the end of my heavy desk, the working surface of which was already clear in accordance with my discipled work methods, I firmly secured her ankles to the heavy piece.
I recognised that she was paying scant attention to my counselling words as I slapped the slipper down on her posterior. From her general demeanour, I ascertained that neither my verbal nor physical entreaties were being heeded. This girl was going to demand serious attention. Without further ado, I fetched the heavy reformatory strap, that reliable workhorse of our ministering care for our charges. Only the hardiest of our repeat offenders remain unsubdued by its application.
To indicate to my subject that I was not unaware of her first two weeks in our care, I asked her what punishment she had received at the hands of our guards when she was last corrected. I allowed the foolish waif to try to lead me a merry dance, believing that I did not already know the answer. Such information is always recorded, in timely fashion, in the large leather bound diary resting on the bureau shelf ready to my right hand, the hand now testing the heft and swing of the heavy belt, its leather supple with the frightened sweat of generations of victims.
As I expected, she told an untruth. I chose not to challenge her, since it was apparent that this charge was not yet ready for the exchange of values through verbal discourse. There was only one language of authority and wisdom she was ready to understand for the moment.
As I swung the heavy belt down repeatedly, she squirmed and twisted. In addition to earning her extra strokes, these gyratory motions caused the rear panels of her cotton drawers to further part with each swing of the belt. By the time I had concluded, her buttocks were bare and I could clearly see the blushing rewards of my exertions.
Knowing from the outset that this culprit would retain her arrogance, despite the attentions of the strap, I had decided that the subsequent application of our tawse would allow me to make up the deficit owing for her untruths. My choice, the XH tawse, would allow this debt to be collected with appropriate interest.
As the tawse licked in, I could see the arrogance start to depart her. At the commencement, I had considered the possibilty that her chest or wrists would also require restraining. However, after no more than six strokes, she was slumped across the desktop. Her defiant energy had left her. Six more strokes and her shoulders were heaving, accompanied by tearful sobbing.
Being familiar with the ways of these girls, I know that they use these punishments to enhance their standing amongst their peers. It is an unavoidable truth that lenient punishment only fosters the rapid dissemination of victorious gossip and lends credance to the belief that authority has weakened. This cannot be permitted and would be placing all of those in my care, guards, domestics and even the weakest girls, to serious danger of oppression by these “ring leaders”.
Tough punishment of the kind just administered, however, has the alternate disadvantage that the girl feels both triumphant in surviving and defiantly vindicated in her belief that the regime is both vindictive and oppressive. In this establishment, we create martyrs at our peril. What is required in such circumstances is a punishment “which keeps on giving”, and in this regard I cannot over recommend the use of the cane.
The cane combines a fearful preannouncement of its imminent application by its distinctive auditory signature with a series of long lasting visual and tactile trademarks. I always ensure that the seared lines will reveal their presence each time she sits down on a reformatory bench or caresses her buttocks whilst attending to her ablutions.
I concluded by providing her with the formal warning required by our statute of incorporation. As you are, of course, aware, we are, quite properly, not permitted to administer a formal public birching, in full view of the entire institution, unless the miscreant was warned of this consequece at the conclusion of her previous chastisement. This ensures that no girl can find herself publically exposed to this most psycholgically humiliating and physically trying of disciplinary experiences without having ignored a fair opportunity for reform. Without permitting such opportunity, how can we give witness to our title “Reformatory” with honest and sincere pride.
I dare say the little vixen will present a brave and heroic perspective when recounting her experiences to her little friends, but my last view of her was of a dishevelled half naked sobbing wench. Although the final cuts of the heavy rattan had sliced the last of the impudence out of her, I fear that this may only have been the first of many encounters to reform this wayward lass.
I remain you loyal servant.